Two ancient statues depicting gods have been registered as national heritage by the Oddar Meanchey provincial Department of Culture and Fine Arts after they were discovered by a local farmer last month and then handed to specialists on Friday.
Provincial Department of Culture and Fine Arts director Hong Yoeun told The Post on Sunday that one of the statues depicted Vishnu and was 51cm tall and 18cm wide, while the other, 40cm high and 14cm in width, was in a style commonly found on ancient temple walls.
“The two statues of gods were made from sandstone during the Angkor era or in the Koh Ker style of some thousand years ago,” he added.
Yoeun said the statues were in a poor condition. The Vishnu statue, he said, had lost its head. A foot and left hand is broken and the lower part of the right hand is missing. The other statue had been severely eroded due to its old age and repeated contact with hard objects.
“However, we have kept and registered them as a national heritage,” he said.
The two statues were discovered by Orn Svoeun, a 56-year-old farmer from Sopheap village in Banteay Ampil district’s Ampil commune, about a month ago while he was ploughing his land to grow cassava.
Svoeun told The Post on Sunday that he discovered the statues when they emerged from the soil in his tractor’s furrow.
“I picked them up and took the statues to my home and cleaned them up. But they were missing heads and parts of their bodies, so I couldn’t keep them to worship at home.
“So at the beginning of the Buddhist religious season, I gave the two statues to the head monk at Kork Ov Lork pagoda for safekeeping,” he said.
Svoeun said on Friday, the pagoda committee and the head of the pagoda relayed the information to the Ampil commune police chief asking experts to intervene and inspect the statues because their style was different from the rest of the pagoda.
On the same evening, specialists from the Heritage Office of the Oddar Meanchey provincial Department of Culture and Fine Arts came to inspect the statues and said they were from the Angkor era and were over a thousand years old.
“After being told about their background, I, along with the pagoda’s committee and the local authority, decided to give the two statues to specialists for safekeeping and so they could be registered as national heritage,” he said.
Ampil commune deputy police chief Phat Chheb said after a religious ceremony to accept and hand over the two statues, the specialists gave a reward of 30,000 riel ($7.50) to each member of the pagoda committee and 50,000 riel to Svoeun.
Chheb said the specialists searched the field where the statues had been discovered for any missing parts but nothing was found.
He said in the past, many ancient hills, tombs and temples in Oddar Meanchey province had been unearthed to look for relics and valuable items – such as ancient pearls and jars decorated
with gemstones and other precious stones.
The illegal excavation was promoted by Thai smugglers who traded in ancient relics, Chheb said.