Tourism, environment bodies planning to work together

via Khmer Times, 05 July 2017: Cambodian government agencies are coordinating efforts to create more eco-tourism alternatives around Angkor.

The Ministry of Tourism yesterday agreed to create an inter-ministerial working group to promote eco-tourism.

After approval of a draft national ecotourism policy, Tourism Minister Thong Khon and Environment Minister Say Samal advised creating the group to promote the monitoring ecotourism and working with the private sector to ensure eco-tourism in accordance with the concept of “conservation development to preserve”.

“The trend of eco-tourism is developing along the lines of Eco Lodge, a container hotel, and Top Tree House, with innovative and creative technologies and ultimate technology that maintains and does not affect natural resources in forests and nature reserves,” he said,

Source: Tourism, environment bodies planning to work together | Khmer Times | News Portal Cambodia |

Call to save Siem Reap’s Kulen mountain

via Khmer Times, 23 June 2017

Environment Minister Say Samal has called on local and international conservation groups to do more to protect Phnom Kulen National Park in Siem Reap.

Speaking at this year’s International Coordinating Committee for safeguarding Angkor event, Mr Samal said increasing numbers of people are setting up home or carrying out illegal logging within the conservation area, while the rubbish problem there is getting worse.

He said the ministry has planted 200,000 trees in the national park, as part of efforts to protect the habitat.

The ministry has also withdrawn a tourism-agriculture land concession from Nokor Koktlork Company and is in the process of evicting military families who have set up home there.

Source: Call to save Siem Reap’s Kulen mountain | Khmer Times | News Portal Cambodia |

The staircase of Phnom Kulen

Archaeologists turn their attention to a mysterious massive staircase on Phnom Kulen, thought to be constructed in Angkoran times.

The 487-meter ascent to sacred Phnom Kulen in Siem Reap province is steep and rocky. At some point between the ninth and 13th centuries, a powerful leader decided to forge a clearer path.

Source: Archaeologists Scale History of Ancient Staircase – The Cambodia Daily

Unesco listing for Phnom Kulen spells unease for residents

A recent announcement to include Phnom Kulen in the Angkor World Heritage property means an uncertain future for the some 300 people who live on the mountain.

Communities on Phnom Kulen. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20160705
Communities on Phnom Kulen. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20160705

UNESCO push will clear villagers off of Kulen Mountain
Phnom Penh Post, 05 July 2016

Hundreds of villagers living on Siem Reap’s historic Phnom Kulen are reeling after the government announced they would be relocated as part of a scheme to secure a UNESCO World Heritage Listing for the site.

Poung Lyna, the head of the Siem Reap environment department, yesterday confirmed the news villagers received over the weekend. “About 300 families, most of which are army and newcomers’ families who live near the Preah Ang Thom area on Kulen Mountain, will be relocated to a new place soon as their presence is affecting the environment of the national park,” Lyna said.

However, he added that those who had “lived there a long time” – upwards of 20 years – would not be moved. But uncertainty shrouds the ministry’s plans, with Lyna admitting he did not know when the villagers would be moved, or to where. However, he claimed it would be near their former homes.

“They will maybe be moved to the foot of the mountain, and we might give them a piece of land larger than what they currently have,” he said, making no mention of monetary compensation. “We will move their houses, but we will keep their businesses on the mountain untouched.”

Full story here.

Lidar reveals more, much more, of the cities of Angkor

A new paper in the Journal of Archaeological Science has been grabbing the headlines in the last few days: the first insights from the Lidar acquisition of Angkor. It is the most extensive use of Lidar in an archaeological context to date, which brings to greater clarity the urban sprawl of Phnom Kulen, Banteay Chhmar, the Preah Khan of Kompong Svay, Sambor Prei Kuk, Longvek and Oudong. Combined with the earlier acquisition of the core Angkor area in 2012, the Lidar data has uncovered a tremendous amount of information about settlement patterns in these areas.

The data gathered presents a big-picture view of several themes of interest: population flows, urban centres, water management and collapse, and provides starting points for many of these future lines of inquiry. To be sure, the patterns in landscape and features uncovered by the Lidar is spectacular, but many of these features will need to be ‘ground-truthed’ and investigated in real life. (Alison has a good commentary about the potentials and limitations of the Lidar data). All in all, a very exciting start to what is surely a new phase of archaeological understanding of Angkor, and hopefully one with repercussions to the rest of the region as well!

Areas scanned in 2012 and 2015. Source: Journal of Archaeological Science
Areas scanned in 2012 and 2015. Source: Journal of Archaeological Science

Airborne laser scanning as a method for exploring long-term socio-ecological dynamics in Cambodia
Journal of Archaeological Science, doi:10.1016/j.jas.2016.05.009

Revealed: Cambodia’s vast medieval cities hidden beneath the jungle
The Guardian, 11 June 2016

Medieval cities hidden under jungle in Cambodia revealed using lasers, archaeologists say
AFP, via ABC News, 12 June 2016

New research reveals further secrets of Khmer history
Phnom Penh Post, 13 June 2016

Ancient urban networks around Angkor Wat discovered
AP, via Jakarta Post, 13 June 2016

New technology reveals cities hidden in Cambodian vegetation for thousands of years
Washington Post, 13 June 2016

Archaeologists Reveal Vast, New Medieval Cities In Cambodia
Tech Times, 13 June 2016

Jungle Of Cambodia Reveals Multiple Cities Between 900 to 1400 Years Old
Science World Report, 13 June 2016


Early Khmer societies developed extensive settlement complexes that were largely made of non-durable materials. These fragile urban areas perished many centuries ago, and thus a century and a half of scholarly research has focussed on the more durable components of Khmer culture, in particular the famous temples and the texts and works of art that are normally found within them. In recent years however there has been a considerable effort to broaden the perspective beyond conventional approaches to Khmer history and archaeology. Remarkable advances have been made in the domain of remote sensing and archaeological mapping, including the application of advanced geospatial techniques such as airborne laser scanning within studies of heritage landscapes at Angkor and beyond. This article describes the most recent applications of the technology in Cambodia, including the results of a newly-completed campaign of airborne laser scanning in 2015—the most extensive acquisition ever undertaken by an archaeological project—and underscores the importance of using these methods as part of a problem-oriented research program that speaks to broader issues within history and archaeology.

Article link

Archaeologists in Cambodia have found multiple, previously undocumented medieval cities not far from the ancient temple city of Angkor Wat, the Guardian can reveal, in groundbreaking discoveries that promise to upend key assumptions about south-east Asia’s history.

The Australian archaeologist Dr Damian Evans, whose findings will be published in the Journal of Archaeological Science on Monday, will announce that cutting-edge airborne laser scanning technology has revealed multiple cities between 900 and 1,400 years old beneath the tropical forest floor, some of which rival the size of Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh.

Link to Guardian article here.

Singapore archaeology team donates to Phnom Kulen reforestation

Singapore archaeologists working in Cambodia donate money towards the reforestation of Phnom Kulen, which in recent years has been stricken by illegal logging and slash-and-burn agriculture.

Singapore archaeologists help with reforestation of potential Cambodian Unesco site
The Straits Times, 20 August 2015

An archaeology team from Singapore is helping in the reforestation efforts of a potential Unesco World Heritage Site in Cambodia.

The Phnom Kulen, or the Mountain of Lychees in Cambodia, which is on Unesco’s tentative list, has been cleared for agriculture and illegally logged for building timber. This has resulted in erosion across the site.

In June, archaeologist Lim Chen Sian from the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies and his team donated $500 that will go towards planting 5,000 tree seedlings across the site.

Full story here.

Public Lecture: Angkor, Diversity, and Archaeological Explorations at Phnom Kulen, Cambodia

A talk by Kyle Latinis and Stephen Murphy on the recent Singapore-Cambodia excavations at Phnom Kulen will be held next Tuesday at the Malay Heritage Centre in Singapore.


Angkor, Diversity, and Archaeological Explorations at Phnom Kulen, Cambodia
Venue: Malay Heritage Centre, Singapore
Date: 25 August 2015
Time: 7 pm

Phnom Kulen (Mahendraparvata), a mountain range near Siem Reap, Cambodia is considered the birthplace of Angkorian civilization (9th–14th centuries CE). A joint Singaporean (NSC at ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute; in collaboration with ACM) and Cambodian (APSARA) team investigated the nature of Phnom Kulen’s history, settlement, environment and culture over the last two years; to include archaeological excavations as well as environmental and ethnographic research.

Recent fieldwork in June 2015 targeted enigmatic Sema Stone sites located near the possible “Royal Residence” (Banteay Site) of 9th century Angkorian “founder” and King, Jayavarman II. The Banteay Site was the focus of 2014 investigations by the ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute and APSARA crew. Overall research results have relevance for testing economic, political, and socio-cultural interaction models. It also sheds new light into the origins of early Angkorian civilization. The Sema Stone sites point towards cultural contact with northeast Thailand during the 8th – 9th centuries. They appear to indicate the existence of a Buddhist monastic settlement on Phnom Kulen similar to those in northeast Thailand during this period. The joint research endeavors have significant contributions to regional partnership strengthening.

Phnom Kulen in danger of deforestation – again

Phnom Kulen, the sacred mountain of Angkor, was once one of the holiest places of all of Cambodia. Today, development, slash and burn agriculture and illegal logging are threatening the people who inhabit the mountain and the archaeology beneath the surface.

Deforestation on Phnom Kulen. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20150110
Deforestation on Phnom Kulen. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20150110

What lies beneath: The fight to save Phnom Kulen
Phnom Penh Post, 10 January 2015
Continue reading “Phnom Kulen in danger of deforestation – again”

The sacred landscapes of Phnom Kulen

Last month’s Archaeology Magazine has a feature on the archaeological features of Phnom Kulen, featuring the rock art site of Poeung Komnou – one of the sites that I investigated for my doctoral work.

Bas-relief of Poeung Komnou, Phnom Kulen. Archaeology, 201412
Bas-relief of Poeung Komnou, Phnom Kulen. Archaeology, 201412

Storied Landscape
Archaeology, December 2014

Journey to Phnom Kulen [Video]
Archaeology, December 2014
Continue reading “The sacred landscapes of Phnom Kulen”

BBC Documentary on Angkor

Last week the BBC broadcast its documentary Jungle Atlantis, featuring some of my colleagues working in Angkor. The focus was on the data that was revealed through Lidar, uncovering an extensive network of roads, buildings and features beneath the jungle surface.

Angkor Wat Lidar Source: Khmer Archaeology Lidar Consortium
Angkor Wat Lidar Source: Khmer Archaeology Lidar Consortium

Beyond Angkor: How lasers revealed a lost city
BBC News, 23 September 2014

Jungle Atlantis
(Watch on iView)
Continue reading “BBC Documentary on Angkor”