Digital non-metric image-based documentation for the preservation and restoration of mural paintings: the case of the Üzümlü Rock-hewn Church, Turkey

Ryo Higuchi, Tamaki Suzuki, Mina Shibata, Yoko Taniguchi, Murat Gülyaz


Digital photography is a valuable documentation technique for the preservation of a cultural heritage site because highresolution photography presents both general and detailed views of mural paintings and mural condition in a single image. Advanced digital technology is particularly helpful for preserving and restoring mural paintings given that the painting condition is recorded on high-resolution base maps shows how mural paintings are damaged by environmental stresses, mechanical damages and inappropriate treatments, among others. In addition, photogrammetric software technology is rapidly advancing and being applied to the digital documentation of mural paintings or rock art. Nevertheless, human experience and investigation of mural paintings is indispensable for recording the condition of mural paintings, and this highlights that every step of documentation conducted in situ is desirable. However, images by photogrammetric software do not show sufficient resolution because most normal portable computers used on-site are not usually sufficient. Based on our experience at the Üzümlü Church in Cappadocia, Turkey, we propose a new approach to document mural conditions in situ for preservation and restoration. Our method is based on a comparison of a non-metric but approximate high-resolution image with the actual mural paintings. The method does not require special instruments and enables digital documentation of the mural condition in situ at a low cost, in a short time frame and using minimal human resources.


digital documentation; photography; image processing; mural painting; rock-hewn church; Cappadocia

Full Text:



Alioglu, E. F., Erkan, Y. K., Alper, M. & Alper, B. (2012). Rock Carved Spaces of Ortahisar. In Crescenzi, C., & Caprara, R. (Eds.) The Rupestrian Settlements in the Circum-Mediterranean Area (pp.233–244). Retrieved from

Allen, E. & Triantaphillidou, S. (Eds.). (2010). The Manual of Photography, 10th ed., Oxford: Focal Press.

Bayerova, C. & Gruber, M. (2011). Graphic documentation: a cool presentation tool or a helpful assistant? Case study Nako, North India. In. Pavelka, K. (Ed.), Proceedings of the XXIIIrd CIPA Symposium, Prague, Czech Republic: CIPA, ISPRS, Czech Technical University in Prague and Czech Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. Retrieved from

Budde, L. (1958). Göreme, Höhlenkirchen in Kappadokien, Düsseldolf: Schwann.

Cerrillo-Cuenca, E., Ortiz-Coder, P. & Martínez-del-Pozo, J.Á. (2014). Computer vision methods and rock art: towards a digital detection of pigments. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, 6(3), 227–239. doi:10.1007/s12520-013-0147-2

Cosentino, A., Stout, S., & Scandurra, C. (2015). Innovative Imaging Techniques for Examination and Documentation of Mural Paintings and Historical Graffiti in the Catacombs of San Giovanni, Syracuse. International Journal of Conservation Science, 6(1). 23–34. Retrieved from

Domingo, I., Villaverde, V., López-Montalvo, E., Lerma, J. L., & Cabrelles, M. (2013). Latest Developments in Rock Art Recording: Towards an Integral Documentation of Levantine Rock Art Sites Combining 2D and 3D Recording Techniques. Journal of Archaeological Science, 40(4), 1879–1889. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2012.11.024

Doneus, M., Verhoeven, G., Fera, M., Briese, C., Kucera, M., & Neubauer, W. (2011). From Deposit to Point Cloud – A Study of Low-cost Computer Vision Approaches for the Straightforward Documentation of Archaeological Excavations. Geoinformatics FCE CTU, 6, 81–88. doi:10.14311/gi.6.11

Jerphanion, G. D. (1942). Une nouvelle province de l'art byzantin: les églises rupestres de Cappadoce, II, Paris: P. Geuthner.

Ke, C.Q., Feng, .X.Z., Du, J. K., and Tang, G.D. (2008). 3D Information Restoration of the Digital Images of Dunhuang Mural Paintings. The International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences, XXXVII(B5), 987–992. Retrieved from

Koutsoudis, A., Vidmar, B., Ioannakis, G., Arnaoutoglou, F., Pavlidis, G. & Chamzas, C. (2014). Multi-image 3D reconstruction data evaluation. Journal of Cultural Heritage, 15(1), 73–79. doi:10.1016/j.culher.2012.12.003

Pelosi, C., Agresti, G., Andaloro, M., Baraldi, P., Pogliani, P. & Santamaria, U. (2012). The rock hewn wall paintings in Cappadocia (Turkey). Characterization of the constituent materials and a chronological overview. e-Preservation Science, 10, 99–108.

PhotoScan Agisoft, 2016,, (accessed 7 January 2016).

Rodley, L. (1985) Cave Monasteries of Byzantine Cappadocia, New York: Cambridge University Press.

Schiemenz, G. P. (1969). Die Kapelle des Styliten Niketas in den Weinbergen von Ortahisar, Jahrbuch der Österreichischen Byzantinistik, 18, 239–258.

Thierry, N., & Thierry, M. (1963). Nouvelles églises rupestres de Cappadoce: région du Hasan Daǧı: new rock-cut churches of Cappadocia, Paris: Klincksieck.

Thierry, N. (1981). Les enseignements historiques de l'archéologie cappadocienne, Travaux et Mémoires, 8, 501–519.

Taniguchi, Y. (ed.). (2015). Scientifics on Conservation for Üzümlü Church and its Wall Paintings in Cappadocia, Turkey, Tsukuba: University of Tsukuba.

Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism (1983). Structural Conservation of Göreme: Göreme Land of Fairy Chimneys, Ankara: UNESCO.

Tsumura, M. (2006). DCM Archiving of Cultural Properties for Assessment of the Collapsing - Perspective from Digitizing with CAD to Archiving with 4D-GIS - The Computers and the Humanities Symposium 2006, 95–100.

Yamauchi, K. (ed.). (2013). Japanese Research for the Conservation of Ajanta Paintings: Conservation of the mural paintings of the Bamiyan Buddhist caves, Tokyo: National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo.

Yamauchi, K. (ed.). (2014). Japanese Research for the Conservation of Ajanta Paintings: Conservation and Scientific Investigation of the Paintings of Ajanta Caves 2 and 9, Tokyo: National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo.

Abstract Views

Metrics Loading ...

Metrics powered by PLOS ALM


  • There are currently no refbacks.


Cited-By (articles included in Crossref)

This journal is a Crossref Cited-by Linking member. This list shows the references that citing the article automatically, if there are. For more information about the system please visit Crossref site

1. Non-metric digital reconstruction of Roman mosaics excavated in the city of Ravenna (Italy)
Mariapaola Monti, Giuseppe Maino
Virtual Archaeology Review  vol: 9  issue: 19  first page: 66  year: 2018  
doi: 10.4995/var.2018.7227

Creative Commons License

This journal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Universitat Politècnica de València

Official journal of Spanish Society of Virtual Archaeology

e-ISSN: 1989-9947