More than 60 statues said to date from between the 16th and 17th centuries have been discovered in Stung Treng province’s Thala Barivat district.
Fifty-five of the statues, which all depict Buddha and were found mostly encased inside two bronze jars last week, were plated with silver, while 10 were plated with gold and another was carved from wood, Sam Sa Em, a former official from the provincial office of the Ministry of Cults and Religion, said yesterday.
“Of the 66 Buddha statues, 10 were broken. It has been concluded that the 66 statues . . . have been kept there since the 1500s or 1600s, based on the style of the carving,” he said.
Kong Sena, police chief of Som Ang commune, said a villager named Sam Art had turned the statues in after his son found them on Thursday while investigating a premonition he had had in a dream the night before.
Art said his son had found the jars and statues, which he described as roughly “the size of a forearm”, on a bronze plate inside a cave in Kangoak mountain about five kilometres from his home in Chhvang village.
“At first, I did not believe my son because I was afraid that he would lie to me based on his dream the night before,” he said.
“But his friend said truly that he also saw the statues, so I went there and saw many statues as they said,” Art said.
Art said police had paid him 90,000 riel ($22.50) for turning over the artefacts, the value of which remains unknown. The statues are being examined by the provincial office of the Ministry of Cults and Religion.
Yean Phon, Som Ang commune chief, said villagers, previously scared away by wild animals that reside on the mountain, had begun traversing the area after it was recently deforested.
“Now I worry that opportunists will come and dig for treasures. So I appeal to the police and the Ministry of Tourism to turn this area into a tourist spot in order to preserve the place,” he said.
Doctor Thuy Chanthourn, deputy director of the Institute of Culture and Fine Arts at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said an ancient highway connecting Angkor Wat to Preah Vihear temple bisected Som Ang commune.
“This area is quite important because it’s the connection of the Angkorian highway,” he said, adding that it was not surprising to find such artefacts there.
Additional reporting by David Boyle