When the man passed away, he had not yet reached 50.
He belonged to a tribe that had settled near the Sangker River in Battambang province, likely cultivating the fields and raising animals. On the side, they hunted for boars, and even turtles, one of which would be laid in his grave to accompany him to his next life. Alongside pottery, jewellery and bangles, he would survive in fossilised form until thousands of years later when he would be discovered by a team of archaeologists in Cambodia.
One of these archaeologists is Heng Sophady, deputy director general for Cultural Heritage at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, who has devoted his life to uncovering Cambodia’s ancient past. For almost 10 years, he and his French-Cambodian team have been digging in Laang Spean cave in Battambang’s Ratanak Mondol district, making discoveries like the man’s grave, which provide evidence of the earliest known civilisations in Cambodia.
A bid to gain Unesco heritage status for three Cambodian cities is set to progress as the government prepares to make a formal request for Battambang City, Kratie City and Kampot City in June to be considered for preservation.
Work on plans to win recognition for the cities—“rich in ancient buildings” that deserve to be conserved, according to the request—first began more than two years ago.
The Cambodian Museum of Culture has just published a book of stolen antiquities from the Battambang museum, a move which will likely assist in the future repatriation of artefacts if they show up in the art market.
The Ministry of Culture released a book on Monday of about 68 Khmer sculptures that were stolen from museums in Battambang City during decades of war and conflict, and intends to use the publication in a global search to recover the artifacts.
The result of a painstaking investigation by a restoration team from the National Museum assisted by the French School of the Far East (EFEO), the book proves that, until the early 1970s, the sculptures were at the Battambang Provincial Museum or the Wat Po Veal Museum.
“We want, first of all, to alert the owners of these pieces that what they have is illegally owned: This belongs to the national inventory of Cambodia,” said Anne Lemaistre, country representative for Unesco, which supported the book project.