Coffins of Chi Phat

Coffins of Chi Phat

Koh Kong province

Chi Phat’s recent incarnation as a forested eco-tourism resort attracts a great deal of domestic and foreign visitors.

Along with the idyllic scenery of the Cardamom ranges and the tranquil river cutting through the district, for the last few years a burial site embedded in the caves of a nearby mountain has provided tourists with an insight into centuries-old Khmer customs.

Pram Heong, the local spokesman for the Wildlife Alliance, says that according to the research of archaeologist Nan Sy, the jars and coffins contained in the cave near the summit of Mount Ta Bel date back about 500 years.

Discovered in 1987, the artifacts give an insight into ancient funeral customs, and the Wildlife Alliance is now working to preserve and develop the area to be suitable for tourism.

It was only five years ago that the Wildlife Alliance stepped in to safeguard the area in an effort to retain its heritage and archaeological value.

Pram Heong says that the preceding two decades saw some of the ancient objects broken or stolen by visitors.

Since 2008, Pram Heong’s organisation has been working to retrieve lost artifacts and restore the cave to the condition previous to its modern discovery.

Alongside the human remains found in the jars and coffins, researchers have also found plates, beads, vases and bracelets dating from the period.

The wooden coffins and burial jars, the latter used to store cremated remains, reflect a diversity of burial practices during the century after the Siamese sacking of Angkor.

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