Experts unsure if urns found at Siem Reap temple are ancient

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Apsara National Authority officials and researchers at Sophia University in Japan are working to identify the origin of eight urns. die

Apsara National Authority (ANA) officials and researchers at Sophia University in Japan are working to identify the origin of eight urns containing human bones that were unearthed in the Banteay Kdei temple complex in Siem Reap town on Monday.

ANA archaeologist Tho Thon said he and experts from Sophia University found the urns within the Banteay Kdei compound next to a Buddhist pillar by Tower C19.

“After we discovered the urns and attempted to research their background, including talking to villagers in the area, we concluded the bones were from the 1980s. They are not human bones from the Angkor period or ancient times,” Thon said.

But ANA spokesman Long Kosal, while acknowledging that the villagers claimed the bones were from the 1980s, said the experts were not yet convinced, because the location they were discovered in was used for burials in ancient times.

He said the researchers would continue their analysis but were also sceptical that the urns dated from ancient times.

“We also found nearly 100 pieces of statues, pots, plates, jars and jewellery in 2011. We later found other specimens at Tower C19. The purpose of the excavation is to explore the structure and the relationship between the Buddhist pillar and Tower C19,” Kosal said.

Nhim Sotheavin, a researcher at Sophia University, said specialists had previously excavated the complex in 1996. At that time, he said, they had found a Chinese urn containing bones embedded in a temple porch.

He said the current excavation work would be completed next Wednesday. This excavation has provided archaeology students with valuable experience which will be crucial in preserving the ancient temples,” he said.

Separately, the Department of Culture and Fine Arts in Oddar Meanchey province on Saturday received a sandstone inscription from Khnar village’s Wat Phnom Dey, in Chongkal district’s Krasaing commune, and will preserve it as an item of national cultural heritage.

The handover ceremony of the inscription was attended by specialist officials from the department’s heritage and museum offices and provincial heritage protection police.

Department of Culture and Fine Arts director Hong Yoeun said the inscription was made from sandstone during the 11th century in the Angkorian period.

Yoeun said it had been taken from Trapeang Roung temple and was 1.02m long, 0.45m wide and 0.35m thick, with four pillars around its corners.

Some of the text carved in the stone had been eroded and parts of the inscription had broken off, he said.

“Specialist officials from the Oddar Meanchey Department of Culture and Fine Arts have taken the stone to be preserved in its compound,” Yoeun said.