Archaeologists unearth some 100 undiscovered temples in Cambodia

Cambodian archaeologists have unearthed the remnants of nearly 100 previously undiscovered temples dating from the 6th and 7th centuries in Kratie province’s historical Samphu Borak area, former capital of the pre-Angkor Empire Chenla period.

Thuy Chanthourn, the deputy director of the Institute of Arts and Culture of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the remnants of the temples had not been recorded in earlier Cambodian or French archaeological studies, including Inventaire descriptif des monuments du Cambodge by E Lunet de Lajonquiere from 1902-11.

They had also not been registered in the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts’ list of ancient temples.

“The French registered more than 10 temples in the northern Samphu Borak area, while the provincial department of culture discovered more than 50 others. I have found nearly 100 temples that have not been unearthed before. We will carry out further inspections and studies,” Chanthourn said.

He said the temples were constructed from sandstone and dedicated to the Brahmanism religion of early Hinduism.

Only the foundations remained of Trapaing Prey, the final Chenla-era temple in the Samphu Borak area discovered by Chanthourn.

He said his team will use the global positioning system (GPS) to carry out in-depth research into the temples and record and preserve them as areas of important historical value.

He said people must be educated as to the importance of the ancient sites as in the past, villagers had damaged them looking for items of worth.

“Local people in the past have dug at the foundations of the temples looking for statues and other valuable relics to sell,” he said.

Royal Academy of Cambodia archaeologists found the ancient foundations as part of their research into the Chenla civilisation that also took them to locations in Kratie, Mondulkiri, Ratanakkiri, Kampong Thom and Kampong Cham provinces, as well as to Vietnam and Laos.

Chanthourn said his team had in previous studies discovered the remains of tangible heritage, including temples, and recorded the intangible ones, such as historical folk tales.

His team last year handed over an ancient inscription from the main temple gate at Samphu Borak to the Kratie provincial department of culture and fine arts for museum study, Chanthourn said.

He said the Chenla period Samphu Borak, on the Mekong River in Kratie province, was yet to be fully researched.

He said the recent discoveries showed that the ancestors of the Cambodian people were truly creators, builders and engineers.

Statues of Buddha’s disciples

This photo provided by the National Museum of Korea on April 29, 2019, shows stone statues of Buddha’s disciples on display for a special exhibition. The same day, the museum opened the exhibition of 88 statues excavated from a temple site in Yeongweol, about 200 km southeast of Seoul. (Yonhap)

Archaeologists unearth ancient Funan burial site in Prey Veng town


Archaeologists have unearthed six ancient graves in Tnort Tret
village, in Prey Veng town’s Takor commune, concluding that the tombs
date from the Funan era between the first and fifth centuries AD.

Funan is the name given to an Indianised Southeast Asian state centred on the Mekong Delta that existed in that period.

Voeun Vuthy, director of the Archaeology and Prehistory Department at
the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, said six archaeologists
excavated the location, found at the construction site for a road, for
10 days and uncovered the tombs. The dig in Prey Veng province was
completed last Tuesday.

The body parts and pieces of jugs and other pottery items discovered
are to be kept at the department for further examination, Vuthy added.

Five tombs were located in the upper layer of the ground with one at a
depth of 2.3m. They found tools and other items buried with the bodies,
he said.

“After the preliminary assessment, we have concluded that
there were people living in this area between the first and fifth
centuries because this area was the foundation of Funan-era culture.”

“Only human labour was used in the excavation because we didn’t want
anything to be damaged. We want to preserve the fragments of bodies and
pottery because these items illustrate the history of the era. We didn’t
want the tombs, which are evidence of the history of Cambodia, to be
buried under a road,” Vuthy said.

He said that all the items collected will be preserved as national treasures for future generations.

Nuth Bun Doeun, Prey Veng town police chief, said the ancient tombs
were located in a hilly area long considered sacred. The site did not
belong to anyone, but villagers said people prayed there as the hills
were ancient and sacred.

Development had caused traffic congestion in the town, so the government ordered the building of Prey Veng’s third ring road.

Experts feared the project would impact the ancient tombs, with the
Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts assessing and excavating the site, he

“The ancient area is on the tallest hill with some trees. The
villagers do not exactly know what the area is, but they have been
worshipping there for many years. Before the archaeologists came, they
held a religious ceremony for the excavation,” he said.


Buddha statue returns to Peshawar Museum after being displayed in Switzerland

PESHAWAR: The 2,000 years old statue of Buddha that had been put on display at an exhibition in Switzerland has been returned to the Peshawar Museum after around three months, an official said on Sunday.

Nawazuddin, spokesperson for Directorate of Archeology and Museum, said that the statue was out of Peshawar Museum for around 100 days. The 365 cm high and 46 cm wide statue was displayed at an international exhibition for the first time, he added.

Estimated to have been created between the 1st and 3rd century, the Buddha statue was discovered in 1909 in Seri Bahlol village in Mardan district and has been on display at the Peshawar Museum since 1911. Seri Bahlol is a world heritage site located about 70 km northwest of Peshawar.

The statue was insured for $20 million before it was loaned for display at the exhibition at Rietberg Museum in Zurich, Switzerland. Titled ‘Buddha Shakyamuni,’ the 1500 kg heavy sculpture was the main highlight at the ‘Next Stop Nirvana – Approaches to Buddhism’ exhibition in Zurich.

The Embassy of Switzerland and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation initiated contacts between Rietberg Museum and the government of Pakistan, resulting in signing of a memorandum of understanding under which the Peshawar Museum agreed to lend the status of Buddha for displaying it at the exhibition.

“The Buddha Shakyamuni has returned well home @PeshawarMuseum, Pakistan! We would like to thank everyone involved who made this colossal project possible! Many thanks to @PeshawarMuseum @EDA_DFAE @GovernmentofKhyberPakhtunkhwa @GovernmentofPakistan

@emirates,” the Museum Rietberg tweeted on April 12.

Curator of Museum Rietberg Johannes Beltz tweeted, “The colossal Gandhara Buddha from Peshawar is back to his home – after being part of the exhibition “Next Stop Nirvana” at the Museum Bietberg. More than 35,000 visitors of all ages came to admire this great work of art. In the name of the entire museum Rietberg, I thank all supporters, helpers, and partners, who made this possible. In particular, my thanks go to the Peshawar Museum, the Swiss Embassy in Islamabad, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Government of Pakistan!”

Ottawa monastery’s Buddha statue vandalized for the third time

Members of a Heron Road Buddhist community say they are fearful after a statue of the Buddha was vandalized for the third time.

A surveillance camera caught a vandal hitting the statue with a piece of wood early Wednesday morning, the monastery’s chief incumbent monk Rev. Nugegalayaye Jinananda Thero said.

On the wood was written the First Commandment from the Bible: Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Police confirmed they were called to a mischief complaint at the monastery Wednesday.

“This is the third time and the whole Buddhist community is threatened by this — it’s not only vandalizing a statue,” Jinananda Thero said.

“It is an uneasy feeling.”

A Buddha statue at the Hilda Jayewardenaramaya Buddhist Monastery was decapitated by a vandal in March 2018 and then damaged again several months later in May after the monastery had raised $7,000 to install surveillance cameras. In that second incident — as in the third — the footage was given to police.

In the May 2018 incident, a man was charged with mischief but acquitted April 8 after a trial.

On Wednesday, a monk noticed the piece of wood on the ground, then saw the most recent damage, which is to the Buddha’s ear, late morning. They checked video footage and saw a person had struck the statue, which came from Sri Lanka as a gift to the monastery and is valued at $8,000, at about 1:30 a.m.

The fear is that vandalism could escalate to physical threats against members of the community, said Jinananda Thero, who teaches meditation and mindfulness to local school children and said the monastery tries to render service to the broader community which has welcomed them as immigrants.

“We are a peaceful community,” he said. “Canada is a peaceful society, Ottawa is a beautiful city with beautiful people. We just want this not to happen again.”

Jinananda Thero even wishes for peace for the vandal.

“He needs some compassion, he needs some support from somebody.”