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Kampong Speu dig turns up unexpected treasure


People stand next to a sixth- or seventh-century statue that was found in a pond in Kampong Speu province on Monday. Photograph supplied

An excavator digging a pool in Kampong Speu province’s Samrong Tong district this week struck an unexpected find when its operators unearthed an ancient Hindu statue two metres below ground.

The 1.4-metre stone statue of the Hindu god Vishnu is thought to have been carved in the sixth or seventh  centuries, around the time of the early Khmer polity of Funan, one expert believes, perhaps travelling some distance to get to the spot it was discovered.

“This one could be interesting . . . because it’s far from the Funan area of Takeo,” former archaeology lecturer Son Soubert said after examining a photo of the headdressed stone figure, now sporting only one and a half arms.

“Usually the right front arm holds a bowl, symbolising earth, and the right rear arm should hold the chakra.”

Provincial Culture and Fine Arts Department director Sun Chea believes the statue was buried thousands of years ago near an old temple site – and that more artifacts may surface nearby.

“About 200 metres from the place where they found the statue is where the old temples were built. That’s why there are statues over there,” he said. “In March this year, we found a similar statue in a pool, from the same era. We sent it to the National Museum in June.”

Two weeks ago, six ancient bronze Buddhist statues potentially worth hundreds of thousands of dollars were discovered by children in Kampong Chhnang province’s Kampong Leng district.

Brak Sakorn, deputy director of the provincial Culture and Fine Arts Department, said the six statues would be housed not in Phnom Penh’s National Museum but in the Kampong Chhnang provincial museum.

“We have our own museum, so we don’t need to send it there, because we need the antiquities to keep for the people and for visiting tourists,” she said.

The Vishnu statue was sent to the National Museum on Wednesday.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mom Kunthear at



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