A more than 1,000-year-old inscription stone, made during the reign of Jayavarman IV between 921 and 941, was handed over by a local pagoda to the Svay Rieng provincial Department of Culture and Fine Arts on Monday for preservation.
Deputy department director Puth Sophanny told The Post on Tuesday that a woman from Svay Teap district’s Prasout commune had handed the ancient artefact to a former chief of Porthimony pagoda in 2011 in order to keep it safe, thinking that the stone was a “holy and God-possessed” object.
“Until now, no one knew the stone was 1,000 years old. The inscription could not be read or translated."
“Keut Sophy, the former chief of the pagoda, left it alone and it was exposed to rain and sunlight near a ‘spirit guardian’ hut on the pagoda compound,” Sophanny said.
He said that recently researchers from the Royal Academy of Cambodia had inspected the stone and announced their findings on Monday.
The experts declared it to be over 1,000 years old and urged the ministry to compile documents and preserve the inscription stone in the National Museum for further study and research.
Sophanny’s department visited Porthimony pagoda on Monday morning and asked for the cooperation of Venerable Kong Samnang, the pagoda chief, and the pagoda’s Clerical Committee to allow the stone to be taken temporarily to a museum in Svay Rieng.
Samnang said he was overjoyed that the Royal Academy of Cambodia could interpret the inscription and appreciate the stone’s value.
“In the past, neither the Buddhist monks nor the followers knew the stone had ancient inscriptions that were 1,000 years old. They only thought of it is an ancient stone and venerated it believing it to be a God-possessed object,” Samnang said.
Meak Bora, the head of inscriptions at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said on Tuesday that on March 2 he headed a team of researchers after receiving a report from Leang Sopheap, the director of the secretariat of the National Council for Khmer Language.
It was then they discovered the stone which had been left exposed to the elements at Porthimony pagoda.
“The inscription, engraved on red sandstone, has a height of 0.58m, is 0.45m wide and 0.29m thick,” Bora said.
He appealed to the public that in case anyone finds an inscription stone engraved with ancient characters, “Please preserve it properly or inform specialist officials to allow them to conduct proper research and document and register it for the sake of future study.”