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