Australian fined for artifact theft

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8 – 11 October 2006 (Various news sources, see below) – By far, this got the most hits in terms of news, probably because someone from the first world was actually convicted. In short, an Australian holidaying in Cambodia was arrested and eventually fined for possessing and buying three stones taken from the Angkor Wat and Bayon temples. The stones weighed a total of 30 kg. Eventually he was found guilty of possession, but convinced the court that he was not a trafficker of antiqities but a tourist who didn’t know better and was slapped with a nominal fine. The moral of the story? Don’t buy stones or pieces of buildings from locals. Not only are they illegal, they also help fuel an illicit trade. Next time, get a t-shirt like everbody else.

Here are the news reports as they appeared in chronological order (ok, roughly so).

8 October:
Daily News and Analysis – Cambodia arrests Aussie tourists for artifact theft

9 October: (Daily Telegraph, Perth Now, The Australian) – Aussie faces jail over Angkor Wat stones (Herald Sun, Adelaide Now, Courier Mail, The Age, Perth Now, The Australian) – Australian to be fined over artefacts
ABC Online – Australian faces fine over artefacts possession in Cambodia

10 October:
Raw Story – Australian to face Cambodian court over alleged artifact theft
Bangkok Post – Cambodia fines antiques smuggler

11 October:
Sydney Morning Herald – Australian fined for ‘souvenirs’
The Raw Story – Cambodian court fines Australian over purchase of artifacts (Courier Mail, Herald Sun, The Australian, Daily Telegraph) – Aussie tourist fined for buying artefacts
IHT – Cambodian court fines Australian tourist for illegal possession of Angkor-era artifact

Apsara dancers of Angkor

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23 September 2006 (The Star)

The Star, 23 Sep 2006
Apsara dancers of Angkor

I was surrounded by apsara everywhere I turned. They were on walls and pillars, lintels and window frames. An apsara has been variously described as a female divinity, a heavenly dancer and a celestial nymph. An apsara is skilled in dance and music, and said to be irresistible to men. Although they were all carved in stone, I observed that each apsara showed slightly different characteristics, either in facial expression, pose or costume and adornments. I was fascinated by the headdresses and trinkets worn by the dancers and noticed that they had ears stretched by heavy earrings. Elongated ear lobes remind one of Lord Buddha. All the apsaras were presented bare-breasted and they were generously endowed. I think some visitors have not been able to resist rubbing and touching the sculptures because certain parts of the anatomy of a few of these sculptures have been rubbed almost black. Fortunately such vandalism and disrespectful behaviour is not widespread.

Related Books:
Images of the Gods: Khmer Mythology in Cambodia, Laos & Thailand by V. Roveda
Narrative Sculpture and Literary Traditions in South and Southeast Asia (Studies in Asian Art and Archaeology) by J. Fontein and M. J. Klokke (Eds)
Apsarases at Angkor Wat, in Indian context by K. M. Srivastava

Angkor temples a dog-free zone

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18 September 2006 (Independent Online) – Maybe I should an include a ‘bizarre and quirky’ tag. For the convenience of tourists, Angkor Wat is now a dog free zone! But, to be fair, the Cambodian government have also acknowledged that the site is a religious temple and the last I checked, the bringing of pets to any religious site is frowned upon in any culture.

Angkor temples a dog-free zone

Cambodian police have banned dogs from the kingdom’s Angkor Wat complex in a bid to give tourists visiting the famed temples an excrement-free experience, an official said Monday.

Dogs are not good for the places of worship, police official Tan Chay said, adding that the animals’ presence insulted the spirits of the dead.

“Angkor Wat was built by our previous kings and ancestors for worship, so bringing dogs into the temples insults our ancestors’ work,” he said.

Angkor shortlisted for New 7 Wonders

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21 August 2006 (Press Release) – A worldwide search to name the new 7 wonders of the world reaches its final stage, reviewsing the final 21 candidates, of which Angkor in Cambodia is one.

New7Wonders Campaign to Visit All 21 Candidates

Over the next seven months, the New7Wonders World Tour, featuring a huge hot-air balloon and a high-tech airship, will visit the 21 finalist monuments, allowing them to showcase their cultural significance. During the ceremony, an official certificate will be presented to each candidate.

In October, the World Tour visits Germany’s Neuschwanstein Castle on the 4th, the Eiffel Tower on the 10th, England’s Stonehenge on the 17th and the Alhambra in Granada, Spain on the 24th, moving to the Great Wall of China in Beijing on Nov. 7, Kyoto’s Kiyomizu Temple on the 14th, the Sydney Opera House on the 21st and Cambodia’s Angkor Wat on the 28th, followed by the Taj Mahal on Dec. 5.

Related Books:
Angkor Cities and Temples by C. Jaques
The Treasures of Angkor: Cultural Travel Guide (Rizzoli Art Guide) by M. Albanese
Angkor and the Khmer Civilization (Ancient Peoples and Places) by M. D. Coe
Angkor: Cambodia’s Wondrous Khmer Temples, Fifth Edition by D. Rooney and P. Danford
Angkor: Celestial Temples of the Khmer by J. Ortner et al
Angkor Wat: Time, Space, and Kingship by E. Mannikka

After ‘Angkor Wat’ Archeological Survey of India gets restoration work of ‘Ta Prohm’ temple in Cambodia

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17 July 2006 (Press Information Bureau of India, and thereafter released on several Indian news sources) – New conservation project awarded to the Archaeological Survey of India for another Cambodian Temple.

After `Angkor Wat’ Archeological Survey of India gets restoration work of `Ta Prohm’ temple in Cambodia

After the successful completion of the Angkor Wat Project in Cambodia, the Cambodian Government has now assigned to the Archeological Survey of India another important project for restoration, the famous 12th Century “ Prasat Ta Prohm” Temple complex, built by King Jayavarman VII. The progress on this project was reviewed today by the Minister of Tourism & Culture, Smt. Ambika Soni and Minister of Tourism of Cambodia, Mr. Lay Prohas during a luncheon meeting, here today. The lunch was hosted by Smt. Soni in honour of the visiting dignitary.

The restoration work of Ta Prohm Temple complex, which is also situated in the Angkor Region and ranks high amongst the most important monuments of that area, is quite a challenging task as about 150 huge trees are growing in the complex and some of them are growing over the structures. Roots have penetrated the foundation and dislodged the stones of walls, vaults, towers etc.

Invasion, genocide; and now the tourist hordes

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9 July 2006 (Sunday Herald) – A report on the tourism industry in Cambodia, particularly how Angkor is a major draw for tourists and the related problems that come with it.

Invasion, genocide … and now the tourist hordes

Dougald O’Reilly, of Heritage Watch, says: “Archaeological tourism is, potentially, this ravaged country’s economic salvation. The temples of Angkor are still the primary destination of most tourists, but more and more people are starting to venture out to Cambodia’s more remote archaeological sites. As they do so there is an increasing danger that those temples which have survived years of abandonment, war and looting do not survive their own popularity.”

Groups such as Heritage Watch have proved effective campaigners, appealing to tourists not to buy artifacts, persuading the government to protect Cambodia’s past, and using superstition as an effective weapon. A comic book distributed to villages last year tells the story of farmers who dig up an ancient site in search of treasure. Their animals sicken and die and ghosts plague them. The book, with a cover picture of a skeleton on a phantom horse rearing over petrified treasure seekers, has apparently been quite successful in getting its message across.

Related Books:
Angkor Cities and Temples by C. Jaques

On the plains of Cambodia

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30 June 2006 (The Hindu) – Travel piece on the Angkor temples in Cambodia.

On the plains of Cambodia

It is an incredible sight to see the temples on the plains of Cambodia. These 100 or so temples were built when Hindu kings reigned over a period of time from the 9th to 13th century. These magnificent temples were constructed out of stones, which were reserved for the gods while the people dwelt in houses made of wood and mud.

Shadows of a lost empire

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25 June 2006 (Contra Costa Times) – A travel piece on visiting the Angkor Archaeological Park.

Shadows of a lost empire

TWO THINGS YOU NEED when exploring the ancient city of Angkor in Cambodia: First — hire a quick-witted guide who can snake you in and out of temples without getting tangled with tour bus crowds.

The other must-have is a swimming pool. Cambodia is one hot little country and even the most intrepid temple prowler will want to slide into cool water after poking around the tumbled ruins of these looming structures of the ancient Khmer empire.