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Ironworks site a 'goldmine'

Ironworks site a 'goldmine'

Finding may shed light on Angkorian manufacturing practices.

The discovery of ancient ironworks last week at Khav village in Siem Reap's Chi-kreng district may provide valuable insight into early iron production during the Angkorian era between the 11th and 13th centuries, as well as additional details of the ancient Kouy people who inhabited the region at that time and whose descendants live there today, Apsara Authority officials said Sunday.

Seung Kong, vice director general of Apsara Authority - the government body tasked with administering Cambodia's Angkor Wat temple complex and surrounding historic sites - said archaeologists found the site by accident while excavating last week but haven't precisely dated their discovery.

"We have collected ancient works such as pots, cooking utensils and smelting tools used to stoke the fires used to melt iron ore," he said, adding that researchers hope to finish excavating the site and create a model of the iron-manufacturing complex for further study.

The discovery represents a historic first for the Kingdom. "It is the first time we have found such a site in Cambodia, though we have studied several in Thailand near the Cambodian border," Seung Kong said.

The site could help archaeologists better understand how raw materials were processed during the Angkorian period. It might also help them discover additional sites in the area and elsewhere. Study of the site is still in its early stages, but early signs indicate that it may have been an important centre for the manufacturing of not only domestic items but also arms. "The iron ore smelted at this site could have been used to manufacture weapons such as swords and javelins," Seung Kong said.

The discovery also gives researchers hope that other ancient treasures lay in store, and Apsara intends to work hard to find them, Seung Kong said. Im Sokrithy, an archaeologist with the Apsara Authority, said Sunday that artefacts collected so far indicate the site specialised in the production of household goods such as axes, knives and chisels used by the ancient Kouy people.

"This site could have belonged to the Kouy, who made all these iron items, but we cannot be certain of that yet. We need to conduct further study and catalogue all the artifacts," he said. Researchers believe Khav commune was home to at least five such ironworks, but some may be unrecoverable.

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