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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ancient 'road' across Tonle Sap lake rediscovered

Ancient 'road' across Tonle Sap lake rediscovered

Ancient 'road' across Tonle Sap lake rediscovered


Legends abound concerning an ancient road which crossed the upper part of the

Tonle Sap lake many thousands of years ago.

Legends abound concerning an ancient road that crossed the Tonle Sap lake thousands of years ago ... and Touch Manh, a boatman from Chong Khneas, is standing in the middle of the lake holding a piece of rock that just might be a part of that road. An exceptionally low level of water in the lake enabled some adventurers to go in search of the fabled path. See ANCIENT ROAD,

Some say it was built by

Hanuman during the Age of the Gods. Others say it was built by the ancient

people before the dawn of Angkor. Still others place it during the time of

Angkor and refer to it as "Spean" - the bridge.

Most of the local

fishermen know the stories and believe that an ancient road remains at the

bottom of the Great Lake.

This year is an exceptionally low water year

for the lake. The depth has dropped from a low water average of one meter to

only about 60 centimeters at present. Not great for fish, but a prime time to

search for ancient roads on the bottom of the lake.

In late April, a

group of six fishermen involved with the Food and Agriculture

Organisation-supported community fisheries in Kompong Phluk set out with the

project's mapping specialist, Chrouk Kim Veng, in search of the ancient road.

After several hours of probing the lake bottom with sticks they hit

stone. They found what they were after: a stone road, now under 30 centimeters

of mud covered by 40 centimeters of water. This was it, the stuff of legends.

The road was approximately 10 meters wide and ran in an east-west direction.

They followed the road for over 600 meters before leaving for the day. In their

boat they carried pieces of the ancient road to share with their friends and

families ; it is a type of stone they claim to have never seen before.

One week later, I joined our mapping specialist and several of the

fishermen for a return to the site and for a walk on the ancient road. We

followed the GPS back to the road and were soon out of the boat and walking on

stone, albeit through 30 centimeters of mud and 40 centimeters of slimy

algae-covered brown/green water. Not very inviting but the road takes you and

you forget about water quality. We spent a few hours on the road and collected

shellfish from the mud to cook for lunch - traveling and eating off the old


The "road" is what most certainly could have served as a road

prior to the filling of the Tonle Sap lake some 5,000 years ago. It is

sedimentary stone, concrete-like but made by the gods, not by man.


looks like a major flood many years ago pushed a large amount of small stones

and debris along a river-channel crossing what is now the bottom of the Tonle

Sap. This flowed over a bed of shells and became rock-like in the sun. It is

strong, with a fairly smooth surface and appears to be 6 to 10 centimeters

thick. A geologist recently examined a piece and believes it to be lithofied

sedimentary mudstone. It could well have been used by ancient people until the

lake rose and covered it, hence the source of the legend.

We returned

again with a group of friends to relax on the old road while sitting on chairs

and enjoying a cold beer in the middle of the lake - a truly unique experience.

Next week we will return with the fishermen again to start the process of

mapping where this road actually comes from, and where it goes


Opportunities like this are rare, as typically the water is too deep.

Given this exceptionally low water year, we still have a few weeks to explore

the site before the lake rises again.

Another amazing site within this

amazing Great Lake.


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