Bodhisattva statue unearthed

The Apsara National Authority technical team uncovered a sandstone statue of a Bodhisattva while carrying out excavation work at the east entrance of the Ta Nei temple on October 8.

The team was trying to find the temple’s roof stone, which had fallen into a pile of stones in land covered with anthills.

Ta Nei temple’s restoration project leader Sea Sophearun, who is also an archaeologist at the Department of Monuments and Preventive Archaeology said his team had only uncovered the head of the statue.

The right ear is still intact but the left one is missing and it has a scraped nose with one side of the cheek damaged.

“Firstly, we cannot determine what caused the damage to the cheek. It might be a result of the statue crashing into something. Although the statue was uncovered at the location, there is no evidence to show the torso of the statue lies in the spot where we uncovered the head,” Sophearun said.

Chhouk Somala, an officer in charge of archaeological registration at the Department of Monuments and Preventive Archaeology said the head is 54cm in height, 27cm in width and has a depth of 36cm.

Somala said the Bodhisattva statue’s head was carved in the Bayon style during the late 12th and early 13th centuries, during the reign of Jayavarman VII.

In Mahayana Buddhism, the statue head is known as the Avloketesvar Bodhisattva, also known as “Guanyin” who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas.

In Khmer art, this kind of statues has two, four, or eight arms, holding Buddhist strings, books, a rose, and a vase. Also, the statue was carved like Bodhisattva Buddha.

Apsara National Authority spokesman Long Kosal said experts have kept the statue head temporarily on the premises of the Apsara National Authority. Then, it will be registered and have its photo taken as part of the documentation process.

Besides, experts will prepare the request to have the statue stored at the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB).

“After we have cleaned the statue’s head, we will study more about it. Then, in future we will exhibit it to the public,” said Kosal.

He said the Apsara National Authority team had always uncovered artefacts and statues in the Angkor area, but he could not provide the total number of such findings.