- vol.23, pp.127-137, 2012-03 (Released:2013-06-06)
The Kizil Grottoes, the largest Buddhist monastery complex in the Xinjian region of China, is decorated with wall paintings - the chronological dates of which are still under debate. This study aims to give some clarification regarding the chronological dates using AMS-14C dating of chaff tempers taken from the earthen renders of the wall paintings. l4C studies previously carried out by Chinese and German researchers had resulted in divergent dates often extending back hundreds of years earlier than hypothesized within the chronology of art history, which has created confusion. Six samples from six wall painting fragments (Caves 8 [III8425], 38 [III8700], 171 [III8793, III8891], 207[III9148b(d)], and 224[III8865(a)]) held in collections at the Museum für Asiatische Kunst in Berlin were taken and analysed with 14C-AMS at the Center of Chronological Research at Nagoya University in Japan. As reference, nine dating results analysed between 1995 and 1998 at Nagoya University were also shown in the list. Dates were obtained for only three out of the six samples: cal AD 128-216 [Cave 8], cal AD 255-306 and cal AD 312-34 [Cave 171], and 90-70 cal BC [Cave 224]; most of these extended back earlier than reference 14C data from the Chinese and German studies and far earlier than dates suggested by the timeline of art history. Even the Chinese and German reference dates derived in the past from 14C analysis often show varied dates occurring earlier than those represented in art history. This may indicate that old chaff was used in renders for the Kizil wall paintings probably as a form of re-use of old mud bricks, or that the chronology of art history must be drastically reconsidered, both of which would require further AMS-14C dating studies with careful and comprehensive sampling from well-documented contexts.