Phnom Penh Post, 09 June 2017:
The mysterious ‘foreigners’ carved into the temples of Sambor Prei Kuk
The southernmost is the home to the puzzle.
Facing the main temple, Prasat Yeah Poun, is a derelict construction called Kda Ouk. Its architrave – the beam above the columns – bears the carvings of 12 men. Each is different – some with strong, chiselled features, and others more delicate – but they have notable characteristics in common, including moustaches, long curly hair, big eyes, thick eyebrows and pointy noses.
The unique features of these men do not fit with the statues and engravings at the rest of the temples – nor, researchers say, with the physical appearance of Cambodian people. This has led to speculation that they are the portraits of foreigners. But who were these outsiders and why, in the seventh century, would they have been important enough to the Khmer people to have been literally put on a pedestal?