Preserving Angkor’s ancient bridges on National Road 6

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Phnom Penh Post, 04 May 2017

Driving along National Road 6 from Phnom Penh towards Kampong Thom and Siem Reap, one will spot the looming heads of stone serpents – or nagas – on the hundreds of ancient bridges built between the 10th and 14th centuries.

Source: Untampered and intact ancient bridges to stay that way, Post Property, Phnom Penh Post

Communication across Mainland Southeast Asia: The Living Angkor Road

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Angkorian Road Network. Source: CSEAS Newsletter Spring 2015

Archaeologists Im Sokrithy and Surat Lertlum from Cambodia and Thailand respectively write about their long-running project on the Living Angkor Road in the latest issue of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies in Kyoto University.

Angkorian Road Network. Source: CSEAS Newsletter Spring 2015

Angkorian Road Network. Source: CSEAS Newsletter Spring 2015

The Living Angkor Road Project: Connectivity within Ancient Mainland Southeast Asia
Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University, Spring 2015

A Khmer-Thai Collaboration research project named the “Living Angkor Road Project” (LARP) has been
supported by the Thailand Research Fund (TRF) and the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA). LARP is a cross-border multi-disciplinary research aimed at firstly, identifying all the remaining portions of ancient roads radiating from the Angkor capital to different provinces of the ancient Khmer empire, in view of an overall mapping of the network known to date. Secondly, it aims to identify and describe all the infrastructures existing along these roads: bridges, all kinds of canals, temples, the remains of rest-houses and hospitals.

Download the newsletter here.

Public Lecture: The Khmer Empire and its Road Network

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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.

Not all gloomy at the Thai-Cambodian border

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Around the same time there was a new standoff at Preah Vihear, a reminder that it’s not all tense and gloomy between Thailand and Cambodia. Researchers working on the Living Angkor Road project are helping young Thais and Cambodians celebrate their shared history and culture by revealing their findings on a local level. The Living Angkor Road Project is a cross-country project to chart the ancient highway between Angkor in Cambodia and Phimai in Thailand. Archaeology is a pretty powerful political tool to fuel nationalistic senses, but it can also an equally powerful tool to promote friendship by highlighting similarities and exchanges between cultures as well.



Project on Thai-Cambodian border bridges cultural ties through learning about a shared history

Bangkok Post, 24 March 2009
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On the road to Angkor

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09 September 2007 (The Nation) – A feature on the Living Angkor Road Project, a joint study between Thailand and Cambodia to investigate a royal road connecting Angkor to Phimai. The road was refurbished by Jayavarman VII (c.1125-1215), a devout Mahayana Buddhist. Jayavarman VII is better known for constructing the city centre of Angkor Thom and is considered the greatest king of Angkor in Buddhist Cambodia. The Living Angkor Road Project wiki was previously mentioned in this site.

Living Angkor Road Project

On the road to Angkor
Bilateral project seeks and preserves 12th-century trade route built by the ancient Khmer
By Aree Chaisatien

Braving the sizzling late-summer heat of the border jungle between Surin province in lower Northeast Thailand and Uddor Mean Chey province in northern Cambodia, I joined researchers tracing a route trodden by the ancient Khmer from Angkor to Phimai.

“Stay on the track,” we are warned from time to time. The trail has not been completely cleared of landmines.

This route has been in use since ancient times and parts of the road can still be seen – laterite blocks covered with moss and lichen.

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Living Angkor Road Project

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The Living Angkor Road Project is an example of how the web can help make the work of archaeology more accessible to public. I’ve previously posted a mention about the Living Angkor Road Project, a collaboration between Thailand and Cambodia to identify a royal road connecting Phimai and Angkor. The project has a homepage online, a wiki in fact, detailing the objectives and outline of the research.

Living Angkor Road Project

Besides a detailed research rationale and methodology outline, the wiki also has a few photo galleries for you to check out the sights along the way. The photographs are written labelled in Thai, I think.

It’s promising to see research projects like these, especially from Southeast Asia, go up online because they immediately open a world of information to the public. Hopefully in the next decade we’ll see more and more research project pages go online. I’ll file this link in the links/resources section as well.

Identifying the old Angkor road

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02 August 2007 (Bangkok Post) – This editorial reflects on how Thailand and Cambodia can overcome their bilateral tensions through archaeology; but the underlying archaeological story is interesting too, about a travel route on a royal road between Phimai and Angkor.

Wisdom among the ruins

How should archaeological ruins, the remnants of past glorious kingdoms, serve our present and help us cope with an uncertain future? This question came to mind over the Asalaha Bucha and Buddhist Lent holiday last weekend when I joined a press trip to explore the ancient Phimai-Angkor road.

For five days, we hiked the forest strewn with land mines, walked the paddy fields and braved the dirt roads under a scorching sun to see numerous ancient rest stops, hospitals, reservoirs and laterite bridges along the route linking Phimai and Angkor when the Khmer civilisation was at its zenith.

The exact location of this 254km-long ancient route has been identified for the first time by the Living Angkor Road Project supported by Thailand Research Fund.

A collaboration between Thai and Cambodian researchers, the Thai team is led by remote-sensing expert Col Surat Lertlum while the Cambodian team is led by anthropologist Im Sokrithy.

The research started with the clues in the 12th-century Stone Inscription saying that King Jayavarman VII had ordered 17 rest houses built along the Angkor-Phimai royal road.

A study by French scholars a century ago identified most of the rest houses but did not identify the exact route.

By integrating advanced technology in remote sensing, geographical information system and geophysics with conventional studies in anthropology, archaeology and history, the Living Angkor Road Project has found the missing links.


Read more about the Phimai-Angkor Royal Road.

For books about the Khmer civilisation of Angkor, look up:
Khmer Civilization and Angkor by D. L. Snellgrove
Angkor and the Khmer Civilization (Ancient Peoples and Places) by M. D. Coe
The Civilization of Angkor by C. Higham