Unearthed bronze workshop suggests centralised production

Crucible found at workshop site. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20160305

A new paper in the BEFEO details the discovery of a large bronze workshop found near the ancient palace in Angkor Thom, which suggests a centralised production of the metal sculptures.

Crucible found at workshop site. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20160305
Crucible found at workshop site. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20160305

Digging for where the gods were constructed
Phnom Penh Post, 05 March 2016

12th Century Bronze Workshop Found in Cambodia
New Historian, 15 March 2016

One of the most famous bronze sculptures found at Angkor is the West Mebon Vishnu. Dating to the 11th century, the piece now at Phnom Penh’s National Museum is merely a fragment – albeit a car-sized one – of the top half of a reclining Vishnu.

Archaeologists estimate the four-armed Hindu deity’s original length at six metres, which makes it comparable to the largest bronzes in the region. Ancient artists would have spent months slaving over it. Yet where Angkorian bronze makers would have spent those months in toil has long puzzled researchers – until now.

The discovery of a sprawling bronze workshop found adjacent to the ancient Royal Palace of Angkor has gone a long way in solving the riddle. The significance of the site was first revealed during a dig in 2012, but the first-ever comprehensive report was published late last month in the 100th edition of the Bulletin de l’École Française d’Extrême-Orient (BEFEO), a journal that has reported the major archaeological finds of Angkor since 1901.

Full stories here and 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.

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