Giant sandstone sculpture found near Angkor Thom

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The excavation conducted by the APSARA Authority and the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre as part of a Field School has uncovered a massive 2m tall statue, a great find for what is just day of the excavation!

Archaeologists are typically happy to find pottery shards when they excavate a site in Angkor Archaeological Park as too many centuries have passed and too many cities have risen and collapsed for them to expect to find major objects in the ground.

So what occurred Saturday seemed like something that happens only in the movies. On the second day of an excavation in Siem Reap province, a team of archaeologists found a 1.9 meter statue weighing about 200 kg at an 800-year-old site in Angkor Park.

The excavation is conducted by the Apsara Authority in cooperation with the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies’ Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore. As part of a training program, 10 students from Asian countries, the U.S. and Australia are taking part in the excavation, Mr. Sokrithy said.

Source: For Archaeologists, a Dream Find at Angkor Park – The Cambodia Daily

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Prof. Ashley Thompson Inaugural Lecture – Double Realities: The Complex Lives of Ancient Khmer Statuary

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Readers in London may be interested in Ashley Thompson’s lecture in early May. Booking required.

Prof. Ashley Thompson Inaugural Lecture – Double Realities: The Complex Lives of Ancient Khmer Statuary
Date: 5 May 2016
Venue: Brunei Gallery
Time: 6.30 pm

The Angkorian empire produced one of the most remarkable sculptural traditions in human history. Starting from Hindu and, to a lesser extent, Buddhist models, Khmer artists invented bold new techniques and sophisticated aesthetic principles that underpinned their exploration of anthropomorphic statuary. And yet the representational presuppositions of Western aesthetics only cloud our understanding of this innovation: perhaps art, in this context, does not stand in a mimetic relationship to the world, but rather itself constitutes an ‘original’, an embodied and multivalent reality that calls for a different relationship with its ‘viewer’.

This lecture will begin with a reflection on the Khmer ‘portrait statue’, considered in the traditional art history of ancient Cambodia to have been a late and peculiar invention of the reign of the last of the great Angkorian kings. However I will challenge this view, and indeed take the double ontology of these sculptures – embodying at once gods and people – to in fact constitute the baseline reality of essentially all Angkorian and post-Angkorian statuary.

Nothing is as it seems: even Angkor itself, this exemplary outlier of the Sanskrit ‘cosmopolis’ that flowered in the late first and early second millennia CE, is construed both as a fiercely singular local dominion and a universal kingdom. Microcosm and macrocosm are each set off against and magnified in the other. Within this context, a number of otherwise incongruous phenomena can be understood as manifestations of an underlying bifid structure: from the fluid ambiguity in the gendering of certain anthropomorphic representations to the determination with which religious practitioners, then as now, experience their own lives as participating in a larger cosmic life variously conveyed by art.

More details and booking information here.

Koh Ker Rama statue returns to Cambodia

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Koh Ker statue returns to Cambodia. Source: Cambodia Daily 20160329

The last Koh Ker statue not in a private collection has finally been returned to Cambodia by the Denver Art Museum in a ceremony last month.

Koh Ker statue returns to Cambodia. Source: Cambodia Daily 20160329

Koh Ker statue returns to Cambodia. Source: Cambodia Daily 20160329

Pomp greets Rama statue’s return from US
Phnom Penh Post, 29 March 2016

Ancient Khmer Rama Statue Officially Received by Government
Cambodia Daily, 29 March 2016

US museum returns 10th century Khmer statue to Cambodia
AP, via Washington Post, 28 March 2016

US museum returns ancient Hindu god statue to Cambodia
BBC News, 28 March 2016

US Museum Returns Stolen Rama Statue
Cambodia Daily, 29 February 2016

Cambodian warrior comes home: Denver Art Museum returns Khmer statue
The Art Newspaper, 26 February 2016

Recently returned after 30 years in a US museum, a priceless Angkorian statue looted from war-torn Cambodia in the early 1970s was feted at the Council of Ministers yesterday.

The 1.6-metre-tall 10th-century Torso of Rama statue was returned by the Denver Art Museum after archaeologists from the Apsara Authority were able to prove that the artefact was looted from the Prasat Chen temple in Preah Vihear province, National Museum director Kong Vireak said yesterday.

The statue’s return, which actually took place in late February, was officially marked in a handover ceremony at the Council of Ministers yesterday morning.

Using forensic techniques, the archaeologists demonstrated that the statue, which is missing its head, arms and feet, was originally connected with a plinth found at the Koh Ker archaeological site, which was heavily looted during the civil war.

The Denver Art Museum had reportedly purchased the footless statue in 1986 from the Doris Weiner Gallery in New York.

Full story here.

Vietnamese man sets up virtual 3D sculpture museum

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Vietnamese 3D museum. Source: 3Ders.org, 20151030

Now that 3D scanning is well and truly a thing, A Vietnamese man has set up a virtual museum showcasing sculptural treasures from Vietnam – check out the museum here.

Vietnamese 3D museum. Source: 3Ders.org, 20151030

Vietnamese 3D museum. Source: 3Ders.org, 20151030

VR3D launches Vietnam’s first virtual museum with 3D scans of ancient relics
3Ders.org, 30 October 2015

One of the greatest old-world-meets-new applications of 3D scanning and 3D printing technology is the potential for cultural and historical preservation. The ability to document and preserve precious artifacts in their current state, including distinctive marks, surface textures and coloration all in the finest of detail, means that even with the passing of time, natural disasters, or damage, future generations can appreciate and learn from the past. When he was just 17 years old, Quang Tri Nguyen recognized the importance of preserving Vietnamese culture—one of the oldest in Southeast Asia—and went so far as to drop out of school to dedicate his life to 3D scanning, documenting, and publishing digital 3D models of ancient Vietnamese sculptures on his website, VR3D.

Full story here.

Cambodia returns artefact fragment to Cleveland museum

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Scans of the 6th century Krishna statue. Source: Cleveland.com, 20151030

Here’s a twist: Cambodia has returned an artefact fragment to the Cleveland Museum, after a series of tests including 3D scans showed that the fragment, part of a 6th century sculpture of Krishna, more closely matched the one in the museum’s collection, rather than the one in National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh.

Scans of the 6th century Krishna statue. Source: Cleveland.com, 20151030

Scans of the 6th century Krishna statue. Source: Cleveland.com, 20151030

Cambodia returns sculptural fragment after 3-D scans show it fits Cleveland Museum of Art’s Krishna
Cleveland.com, 30 October 2015

Cambodia returned a 432-pound sculptural fragment to the Cleveland Museum of Art after new evidence including 3-D scans showed that the broken piece belongs to the museum’s monumental sixth-century stone carving of Krishna.

The museum actually owned the fragment in question between the mid-1970s and 2005, but failed in earlier attempts to match it to its Krishna.

The museum sent the fragment to Cambodia, thinking that might match another Krishna in the National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh.

But the Cleveland museum now says that new scientific information shows the fragment matches its Krishna and not a sculpture in Phnom Penh, as Cambodian authorities believed over the past decade.

Full story here.

Artefacts returned to Cambodia

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Artefacts returned to Cambodia. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20151021

Cambodia recently celebrated the return of 11 artefacts to the country, including two that were returned by a Norwegian businessman.

Artefacts returned to Cambodia. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20151021

Artefacts returned to Cambodia. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20151021

Artefacts returned by collector
Phnom Penh Post, 21 October 2015

Norwegian returns 2 stolen stone statues to Cambodia
AP, via the Herald, 20 October 2015

Two Ancient Artifacts To Be Returned by Norwegian Collector
VOA Cambodia, 16 October 2015

Cambodian antiquities, including two Angkor-era statues, were returned to the government by a Norwegian private art collector at a ceremony at the National Museum in Phnom Penh yesterday.

The 11 artworks – the most valuable of which were a ninth century Preah Ko-style head of Shiva and a late 12th century Bayon-style male divinity – were handed over by businessman Morten Bosterud at an event presided over by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Hom Namhong.

“I see myself not as a donor but as a returner of these art objects to their true owner,” Bosterud said. “I have had time to have a brief look around this museum and it made me realise that my decision was correct, and that my previous thoughts of being a caretaker of these objects was not correct.”

He added that he was certain the National Museum would take good care of the objects, display them to the public and use them for educational purposes.

Full story here and here.

Statues discovered near Banteay Srey

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Source: Phnom Penh Post 20151013

Two small statues dating to the 10th century were discovered in Banteay Srey last week during the excavation of a water channel.

Source: Phnom Penh Post 20151013

Source: Phnom Penh Post 20151013

Angkor worksite reveals 2 statues
Phnom Penh Post, 06 October 2015

Authorities at the Angkor Temple Complex in Siem Reap province yesterday announced the discovery of two statues dating from the 10th century, uncovered during the digging of a water channel.

In a statement released on its website, the Apsara Authority, which runs and manages the Unesco World Heritage site, said the two statues will be sent to archaeologists for research purposes.

“We found them while digging a small canal around the Banteay Srey temple,” said Apsara Authority spokesperson Chao Sun Kerya.

The canal is intended to hold rainwater runoff currently gathering in the temple.

Full story here.

Statue fragments unearthed near Angkor Wat

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Bayon-era statues discovered near Angkor Wat. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20150702

Farmers near Angkor Wat unearthed some statue fragments which have been estimated to be 800 years old.

Bayon-era statues discovered near Angkor Wat. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20150702

Bayon-era statues discovered near Angkor Wat. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20150702

Statues found in Siem Reap
Phnom Penh Post, 02 July 2015

The Apsara Authority yesterday received two 800-year-old statue fragments uncovered by a ploughing farmer in Siem Reap town’s Kokchak commune, near Angkor Wat.

According to an announcement from Apsara, heritage police and expert officials from the authority examined the statue, concluding that two pieces likely dated from the end of the Bayon era – around the end of 13th century.

One statue, a sitting figure, is about 20 centimetres tall by about 17 centimetres wide, and nine centimetres thick.

The other, a fragment of a statue’s head, had similar dimensions.

“After the expert officials examined and studied them, they concluded that they really are ancient statues, which are in the style of the end of Bayon Era, at the end of the 13th century.

Now the two statues were brought in for cleaning, and then they will be listed for storage and studying their ancient style before they are kept at museum,” the Apsara announcement reads.

Full story here.

Another Prasat Chen statue returned – Hanuman repatriated to Cambodia

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Returned Hanuman statue. Source: Cambodia Daily 20150513

It was a time for celebration for Cambodia last week when another statue from the Prasat Chen group in Koh Ker was returned to the country from the Cleveland Museum of Art, after it was established that the statue was illegally removed and therefore looted.

Returned Hanuman statue. Source: Cambodia Daily 20150513

Returned Hanuman statue. Source: Cambodia Daily 20150513

US Museum returns looted statue to Cambodia
AFP, via Yahoo News, 11 May 2015

US Museum Returns Hanuman Statue to Cambodia
Cambodia Daily, 11 May 2015

Cambodia welcomes home statue returned by Cleveland Museum of Art
AP, via the News Herald.com, 12 May 2015

Hanuman statue returned (video)
Phnom Penh Post, 13 May 2015

Looted statue comes home
Phnom Penh Post, 13 May 2015

Looted Statue Officially Returned to Cambodia
Cambodia Daily, 13 May 2015

Nearly five decades after a centuries-old statue of the Hindu monkey god Hanuman was looted from a temple in Cambodia, the Cleveland Museum of Art officially handed it over to the government Tuesday during a ceremony at the Council of Ministers building.

Once part of a depiction of an epic battle between two other monkey deities, the statue was carved in the 10th century and housed at Preah Vihear province’s Prasat Chen temple, which was built as part of the one-time Khmer Empire capital of Koh Ker.

Full story here.

Cambodian military official caught smuggling statues out of the country

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Statues confiscated at the Thai-Cambodian border. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20150427

A Cambodian official was caught smuggling three statues out of the country when he was checked by the customs officials at the Thai border.

Statues confiscated at the Thai-Cambodian border. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20150427

Statues confiscated at the Thai-Cambodian border. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20150427

Statues seized at border
Phnom Penh Post, 27 April 2015

Army Officer Smuggling Statues Into Thailand Caught at Border
Cambodia Daily, 27 April 2015

A military official was arrested in Thailand on Saturday after smuggling three statues across the border from Banteay Meanchey province in his car, officials said Sunday.

Prak Sa, chief of the Boeung Trakuon border checkpoint in Banteay Meanchey’s O’Chrou district, said that Soeun Oeun, 49—an intelligence officer from the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces’ Region 5 in Battambang province—was arrested at about 5 p.m., just after passing through screening on the Cambodian side of the checkpoint.

“We were careless with checking his car, in which he had hidden three ancient statues, but he was arrested by Thai border police,” Mr. Sa said. He said Mr. Oeun regularly went through the checkpoint in O’Beichoan commune to purchase food or gasoline in Thailand.

“The suspect goes back and forth every day,” he said, adding that Cambodian border police had never had reason to suspect nefarious activity.

Full story here.