Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hidden treasures

Brahma, the god of creation, with 4 faces and the remains of 4 arms, at Koh Ker
I was only at Koh Ker for a couple of hours of daylight on Monday of this week - I was testing out Hanuman's safari tents - but made a discovery amongst the trees and bushes which I failed to see on any of my previous visits to the former Khmer capital of the 10th century. It was a hunch that turned into a goldmine when I located a series of rockbed bas-relief carvings at the site, which number around 100 individually carved figures, representing all of the major gods, including Vishnu, Indra, Shiva and Brahma. It looked like the area they were in had recently been cleared of vegetation so I'm assuming the majority of them have lain undisturbed for a long time. The bedrock in that corner of the site was sandstone and the figures had been carved facing a small pond known as Trapeang Ang Khnar lying closeby; the bas-reliefs were in two locations, one of which had clearly acted as a quarry for some of the material that was used in constructing the nearby temples. I'll post more photos in due course, but here's a taster of these carvings, which reminded me of other rockface carvings at Kbal Spean and on Phnom Kulen.
Eight figures carved into the sandstone bedrock include hermits and the odd god or two



Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

Don't think that these carvings have just recently been discovered...they've been known about for a while now but for me, after a few visits to Koh Ker since my 1st time there in Nov 2001, I'd never seen them and was surprised by the sheer number of them.
But Koh Ker is like's a site which continues to offer up new and exciting discoveries. I was just talking to one of the archaeologists working in the Angkor area and he tells me there's a very large temple site just 3 or 4 kms from the main Koh Ker complex which no-one has ventured near fro a long long time due to landmines and undergrowth. Literally, just sitting there waiting to be re-discovered is another large temple (according to the satellite imagery). If they need someone to be the first to go in, I'm your man.
In addition to that, ancient highways and canals dot the area and no work has yet been done to understand what they were, why they were there and what they represent. We are in 2009 and still large tracts of Cambodia remain a mystery. What an incredible country.

January 23, 2009 3:53 PM  

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