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Children uncover ancient Buddha statues

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A shrine set up to display six statues found in a pond in Kampong Chhnang province. Photograph: supplied

Six ancient, bronze Buddha statues potentially worth hundreds of thousands of dollars were discovered by a band of unlikely archaeologists in Kampong Chhnang over the weekend, authorities said yesterday.

A group of young boys playing in a pond near their houses in Kampong Leng district chanced upon strange metallic objects in a pile of excavated earth from a freshly dug waterhole.

“The children were swimming in the new pond nearby their houses,and when they left the pond, one boy saw a metal object in the [pile of earth] nearby. The boys thought that maybe it was a piece of metal that they could sell to a collector,” Kampong Leng district Governor Moan Eangly said yesterday.

The children dug through the dirt and found six Buddha statues thought likely to be from the 11th and 12th centuries – three in sitting poses and three standing. Guessing the significance of the find, they opted not to pawn the loot and instead take them to their parents.

“I got information from those boys’ families, and then I contacted the provincial Culture and Fine Arts officials to come and see the statues and take them to be kept in the provincial museum,” Eangly said.

The district governor said that in ancient times, the modern-day area of Kampong Leng district was home to several temples of which little visible evidence remained.

“We provided some money and rice to the boys’ family as a reward for bringing those statues to keep in the museum to avoid having them lost or stolen.”

Sok Thouk, director of the Kampong Chhnang provincial Culture and Fine Arts Department, said yesterday that his officials took the statues to keep in the provincial museum, but did not know whether this would be their permanent home.

Son Soubert, former board member of Heritage Watch and current constitutional council member, told the Post yesterday that the area was an important pre-Angkor period historical site.

“During the time of Prince Sihanouk, people would bring finds like this to the pagoda and chief monks would keep them there, but during the Khmer Rouge and civil war periods, often the chief monks would hide these artefacts by dropping them in a pond or burying them to make sure they were not destroyed,” Soubert said.

“These kinds of statues would have enormous monetary value for antiquities dealers or somewhere like Sotheby’s,” he said, lauding moves by the local authorities to preserve the artefacts.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mom Kunthear at kunthear.mom@phnompenhpost.com
With assistance from Bridget Di Certo

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