APSARA National Authority (ANA) archaeologists have discovered a large statue of a turtle buried at the bottom of a pond in the Angkor Wat area.
Experts said the turtle was involved in the preparation of spirit offerings at the Angkor Wat temple foundation construction and offerings to Hindu deity Vishnu, but cannot specify the exact time.
Archaeologist Chea Socheat, the project director and the research leader, said on Thursday that the team of archaeologists had discovered a large turtle sculpture (yet unweighed) that is made of ancient sandstone.
There is no refinement to the decorative design, but the turtle shell has a rectangular lid as if there was something hidden in it.
He said the turtle statue was associated with the spirit offering festival during the construction of the Angkor Wat Temple foundation and was a Vishnu offering associated with the Sea of Milk churning ceremony.
The team has not yet opened the lid on the shell, and it is not known what treasures could be inside of it.
“In past discoveries at the Neak Pean temple, researchers found a similar turtle sculpture but it was smaller than this one.
“Inside of it, there were some precious and rare stones, bronze threads, and a cloth wrapped in a kind of grain associated with Vishnu rituals during that time,” Socheat said.
He said that since the March 27 excavation, the team had opened an 11m-by-14m pit. Initially, they found traces of soil scratches used to build the temple. Nearby, there was a trace of digging to make a drainage ditch.
Socheat said in the canal, a white crystal stone of a kind thought to be valuable in Vishnu rituals – was found. Later, the team found a dragon and tridents, but they were moved to the Preah Norodom Sihanouk-Angkor Museum.
His team, he said, would continue to study the turtle to learn more about the sculpture and other artefacts. This research should provide evidence to better interpret the history and construction of Angkor temples.
ANA deputy director-general Kim Sothin said on Thursday that the team was successful in building a dam and pumping water from the excavation site, after which four architects were brought in to supervise the excavation.
Archaeologists have uncovered ancient artefacts and objects in the pond used in the daily lives of the ancient people, he said.
He said while the discovery of the ancient remains is significant, archaeologists have not yet been able to conclude the period of the objects or why they were placed there.
“The results will be clearer after the end of the research work. If there are no interruptions during the excavation, we expect to complete our work within six weeks from March 27,” Sothin said.