Debunking the myth of the lost city of Angkor

Drawing your attention to Dr Alison Carter’s excellent post about the myth that Angkor was “discovered” by the French in the 19th century.

Cambodia-2395 - Amazing Angkor Wat

One of my biggest pet peeves is the old myth about how the French, specifically the explorer and researcher Henri Mouhot, “discovered Angkor” in 1860. This myth is based on an idea that the Cambodians had no knowledge of their past, and therefore helped the French justify their colonial rule in “restoring a nation to its past grandeur” (Dagens 1995:47). As Angkor has been in the news lately, due to the recent BBC documentary, this factual inaccuracy continues to be perpetuated. It’s time for this myth to die.

Read her post, Stop saying the French discovered Angkor

Disclosure: Alison is a personal friend of mine but she has been blogging about Cambodian archaeology for years. Read about her stuff here.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

8 thoughts on “Debunking the myth of the lost city of Angkor”

  1. Yes! Related- I could write a whole second post about news websites with mislabeled photos of the Bayon, Ta Prohm etc as Angkor Wat.

  2. But also in the case of Mouhot and Angkor Wat, it’s easy for Angkor and Angkor Wat to be conflated because in publicizing that site he was also broadcasting the existence of the Angkorian civilization that created it.

  3. The “lost” part isn’t really what I was addressing, it was more getting rid of the idea that that Mouhot/the French discovered Angkor – in the colonial myth a place that even the Khmers had forgotten about. It’s I think more like the Myth of the Moundbuilders in it’s Colonialist ideas about the native people and their ability to have created a “great civilization.”

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