• Kyodo

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The Cultural Affairs Agency switched on a cooling system Friday at the ancient Takamatsuzuka tomb in Asuka, Nara Prefecture, that it hopes will help reduce further mold formation in the stone burial chamber.

The tomb, which is believed to date back to the late seventh to early eighth century, has been designated a special historic site, while the colorful wall paintings of the burial chamber are a national treasure.

The cooling system involves a network of more than 140 pipes that run along the surface of the tomb mound and underneath the chamber itself through which coolant water will constantly pass. The aim is to bring down the temperature inside the chamber to around 10 C, which is considered cool enough to keep mold from forming.

The move is a stopgap measure until the end of 2006, when the agency hopes to dismantle the stone chamber and move it.

“We’ll continue to monitor the inside of the chamber and carry out the necessary work until the dismantling process,” an agency official said.

A protective roof that can withstand onslaughts from typhoons is also being constructed around the burial mound and is expected to be completed as early as next week.

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