via Khmer Times, 25 June 2018: The ancient graffiti of Angkor Wat is actually quite interesting and something I encountered while researching the invisible paintings a few years ago. The ‘graffiti’ – most of them inscriptions left behind by pilgrims – sheds light on the history of the temple during the post-Angkorian period and when the temple began to be seen as a Buddhist shrine rather than a Hindu one. Of course, leaving writing on the walls of the temples today is not only highly discouraged, it is downright illegal!
via Phnom Penh Post, 26 Feb 2018: Obituary of Prof. Claude Jacques, a prominent scholar of Khmer inscriptions.
Scholars of Khmer and Southeast Asian history are mourning the passing of professor Claude Jacques, a prolific academic of ancient stone inscriptions, who will be laid to rest today at the town chapel of his countryside home in the Oise region of France. He was 88.
Source: Khmer history scholar dies at 88
The Sdok Kok Thom Temple in Thailand’s Sa Kaeo province will be Thailand’s next official historical park. Inscriptions from the 11th century temple are the primary source for the founding of Angkor in 802.
Almost 1,000 years ago, this grand Khmer architecture was dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and called Pattharatekla, according to an inscription. After 20 years of restoration, Sdokkokthom Sanctuary, 34km from the Thai-Cambodian border in Khok Sung district, Sa Kaeo province, has become a popular attraction since 2014. Beginning in April next year, it will officially open as Thailand’s 11th historical park.
The temple was established in 1052 by King Udayadityavarman II (1050-1066) as a present to his Brahmin teacher Srijayentravarman, or Sathashiva, who performed the coronation ceremony for him. The teacher later left the priesthood and married a daughter of King Suryavarman I. King Udayadityavarman II ruled the Khmer kingdom from 1050 to 1066 and was the successor of King Suryavarman I.
The author of the book ‘Finding Zero’ describes the earliest known inscription of the number ‘0’ in the modern Arabic numeral system, which is found in a Cambodian inscription.
Update and correction: A reader has pointed out to me that the representation of zero in the Arabic numeral system appears simultaneously in Cambodia and Sumatra in 683CE, and that prior to that we have symbolic representations of the number zero using words such as ‘void’, ‘air’, ‘wind’ from Cambodian inscriptions dating to 604CE. See G. Coedès (1931) A propos de l’origine des chiffres arabes. (Thanks Terry Lustig)
My Quest to Find the First Zero
Time.com, 07 May 2015
It’s humanity’s great invention
At 1:35 p.m. on Jan. 2, 2013, in a deserted, dusty shed in a clearing in what was once a lush, dense tropical forest a few miles southeast of the imposing ancient temple of Angkor Wat in northwest Cambodia, I had a rendezvous with history.
I found myself standing in front of a long-lost archaeological artifact whose importance for the history of science could not be overstated. It had taken me five years of intense effort to find this piece of stone. After talking to experts on three continents, and trekking through jungles, arid fields, sweltering deserts, and ragged mountains in India, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia, I was finally here, in front of the object I had almost lost hope of ever finding.
The artifact was a 5-foot-by-3-foot stone slab weighing half a ton, with ancient writings in a lost language chiseled into its smooth face. The language was Pre-Angkorian Old Khmer, an ancient form of the language of present-day Cambodia. This stele once adorned the wall of a 7th century temple at a place called Sambor on the Mekong River, all the way across the country, and it bore a description of the gifts made to this temple from the people of the area, including a list of slaves, five pairs of oxen, and white rice for the subsistence of those who worshipped there.
Full story here.
Cambodian archaeologist Ea Darith will be giving a presentation in Singapore next month. Readers in Singapore may want to check it out.
Update: The lecture is now in Youtube. You can view it here.
The Khmer Empire and its Road Network
Date: 12 February 2015
Time: 3.00 – 4.30 pm
Venue: Seminar Room 2, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore
From the 9th to 15th century, the Khmer Empire ruled over a large area of Mainland Southeast Asia, which was bordered by China to the north; the Malay Peninsula to the south; the Mon state to the west; and Champa and Daiviet to the east. The empire’s capital was located in the Angkor area and consisted of a concentrated series of monumental structures. These included a large capital city complex which encompassed a 3×3 km area (now called Angkor Thom), and the state temple of Angkor Wat—the largest Hindu temple in the world to date. The Angkor complex also consisted of huge eastern and western water reservoirs, canal systems, hundreds of other smaller temples, as well as a road network from the Angkor capital to other provinces within its domain.
In order to solidify control over this vast area, the rulers of Angkor constructed many roads that connected the Angkor capital to its former capitals as well as new conquered territories. There were two roads to the east and northeast of Angkor which connected to the former capital cities of Sambor Prei Kuk, Kok Ker, and Wat Phu. To the west and northwest, there were two roads that had connections to Phimai, Sdok Kak Thom, and probably Lopburi. The late 12th century Preah Khan temple inscription tells us that there are 121 rest houses and 102 hospitals located along these roads and provincial cities. The inscriptions also clearly mentioned 17 rest houses along the 245-km-road from Angkor to Phimai, which was considered the northwestern region.
The Living Angkor Road Project (LARP), a Cambodian–Thai joint research project, has been conducting research along the said road since 2005. The team has already identified 32 ancient bridges, 385 water structures, 134 temples, 17 rest houses, 8 hospitals, a number of iron smelting sites, hundreds of stoneware ceramic kilns, and many habitation sites.
Registration details here.
A blurb for an upcoming book, Finding Zero, about the origins of the numeral ‘0’. It seems that the oldest inscriptional evidence thus far comes from a Khmer stele K127.
I don’t read Khmer, and I ran this story through Google Translate, but it seems that a number of inscriptions have been discovered on Phnom Tbeng Meanchey in Preah Vihear province. Corrections, translations and clarifications welcome!
ភ្នំត្បែងមានជ័យ, អាថ័កំបាំងដែល មិនទាន់ទម្លាយ
Everyday.com, 18 August 2014
Article is in Khmer
Update: Alison provides a short translation in the comments below.
23 September 2007 (Vietnam News, courtesy of chlim01) – The art of inscribing text on leaves used by monks in Cambodia is in danger of being lost as the sole monk with the skill takes a two-year break without finding any successor. The Cambodian version of the art is not old – only about 100 years old – but similar ancient traditions are found elsewhere in the region, for instance by the Cham in South Vietnam (see related story at the end of the post). I wonder if there’s a regional tradition of writing texts on leaves. Further south in Bali and Java there are copies of king-lists written on palm leaves. It occurs to me that the Malay word “buku” is a corruption of the English word “book”, but ancient texts surely existed before European contact. Today, virtually all textual sources of ancient Southeast Asia is based on carved inscriptions on stone. However, I would not be surprised if this region had a rich textual culture based on leaf-books such as the ones mentioned here.
Monks await next in line to record history [Link no longer active]
by Trung Hieu â€“ Vien Du
On a quiet, peaceful afternoon, in a large, airy chamber of an ancient Khmer pagoda, two yellow-robed monks – one wrinkled, one fresh-faced – study a large Buddhist prayer book.
They must turn each page carefully, for the book doesn’t contain ordinary paper. Rather, its pale yellow pages are made of a special type of dried leaf, on which prayers and descriptions of historical events are etched in delicate Khmer script.
5 April 2007 (Pattaya Daily News) – A short piece on 10th century Prasat Hin Khao Phanom Rung in Buri Ram province. An interesting feature about the temple to Shiva is the possibility that the doorways are aligned to capture a single shaft of light once a year. The Sanskrit and Khmer inscriptions found associated with the temple have also been touched upon in a paper by HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand in Uncovering Southeast Asia’s Past (see related books below).
Where do you come from?..”Buri Rum”..Where is that?
Phanom Rung Historical Park, Chalermphrakiat district, Buri Ram province) In Hindu and Buddhist cosmology, mountains are believed to be homes to the gods. Prasat Hin Khao Phanom Rung, a magnificent temple sanctuary set on the summit of Phanom Rung Hill, was built between the 10th and 13th centuries. According to the stone inscriptions in Sanskrit and Khmer found at the site, the original name of the temple complex is Phanom Rung, Khmer for big mountain
A religious sanctuary dedicated to the Hindu god, Shiva, Prasat Hin Khao Phanom Rung symbolises Mount Kailasa, the heavenly abode of Shiva. Phanom Rung Hill rises 350 metres above the surrounding plain.
Astro-archaeological Phenomenon at Prasat Hin Khao Phanom Rung Astrologers have also predicted that an extraordinary astro-archaeological phenomenon will occur at sunrise during the April 3-5 period this year. The doors of the temple sanctuary are so perfectly aligned that during this period, at sunrise on a cloudless day with clear blue skies, the sun’s rays will shine through all fifteen doorways of the sanctuary in a single shaft of light.
– Uncovering Southeast Asia’s Past: Selected Papers from the 10th International Conference of the European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists by E. A. Bacus, I. Glover and V. C. Pigott (Eds)
– Khmer Civilization and Angkor (Orchid Guides) by D. L. Snellgrove
– Adoration and Glory: The Golden Age of Khmer Art by E. C. Bunker and D. Latchford
via Nippon.com. 06 April 2018:
Award-winning Japanese scholar Ishizawa Yoshiaki is one of the world’s leading authorities on Khmer inscriptions of the Angkor period (802–1431). His honors include the Ramon Magsaysay Award, sometimes described as the “Asian Nobel,” for his contributions over the course of half a century in restoring to the Cambodian people a sense of pride in their cultural heritage. We spoke to him about his long career working on the monuments at Angkor and his efforts to train a new generation of Cambodian conservators.