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Angkor glory seen in more than just temples

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Angkorian ceramic pottery on display at the Angkor Ceramic Museum at Tani. ANA

Angkor glory seen in more than just temples

Archaeologists of the Apsara National Authority (ANA) remind members of the public that the glorious civilisation of the Angkorian period is not limited to temples, but also to other areas, such as pottery.

This is especially true for the Angkorian pottery at the Angkor Ceramic Museum at Tani, which reflects the everyday life, trade and evolution of culture of the Khmer ancestors. The museum is located in Run Ta Ek commune of Siem Reap province’s Banteay Srei district.

Vong Savuthy, technical officer of the ceramic museum – which operates under the ANA’s Department of Cultural Development Museums and Heritage – said on May 16 that when thinking about ceramic pots (baked clay products), Cambodians immediately imagine the ancient works of countries such as China, Japan and Korea, without remembering the progress of the Angkorian period.

He called on the people to pay more attention to the Angkorian ceramics made by the Khmer ancestors and to visit the museum to learn more.

“We need to broaden our view of the Angkor civilisation; we should not just imagine that there is only Angkor Wat to be proud of – there are many other things that support the glory of that civilisation,” he said.

He said that after visiting the ceramic museum, tourists, especially domestic ones, will understand the advanced developments that took place during the Angkorian period and what goods were available at that time.

Visitors would also learn why Cambodia no longer widely produces pots, and the production of ceramic pots in provinces in the rest of the country. They will also learn how techniques differ between manufacturing ceramics now and during the Angkorian period.

Savuthy said there are currently 117 ceramic pots from the Angkor area on display in the museum.

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The Angkor Ceramic Museum at Tani in Run Ta Ek commune of Banteay Srei district in Siem Reap province. ANA

Archaeologists unearthed them from excavations at sites in and around the Angkor Park, including the Anlong Thom archaeological site, Khnar Po, Sar Sey, Bang Kong, as well as the Tani kiln.

“The inscriptions in the temples typically describe the events of the king, priests, nobles, offerings, slaves and logistics for the temple. Very few are focussed on daily life, except for the lip sculpture in the Bayon temple gallery. Studying ceramics allows us to learn more about human society and everyday life,” he said.

According to the technical officer, there are four museums in the Angkor area which cover heritage: the Museum of Asian Traditional Textiles (related to clothing), the Angkor Ceramic Museum at Tani, the Preah Norodom Sihanouk-Angkor Museum and the Angkor National Museum.

According to the ANA, in 2009 the Angkor Ceramic Museum became the first in Cambodia to be built on the site of an Archaeological Site. During the 10th-11th centuries in the Angkorian period, this was an industrial site for the production of Khmer pots.

It said there was an ancient mound, encompassing an approximately 900m-long dam, which concealed millions of remnants of ceramic pots. These are very important in the study of Khmer pots, and have only recently attracted the interest of post-archaeologists. There was not much study carried out on them before before the war.

“The ANA has demarcated 34ha as a protected area around an ancient site, which includes a 900m-long ancient dam with five kilns, including 27 ancient kilns and many large and small ponds. Researchers presume it was a clay pit used to supply the pot production line in Tani itself,” the ANA said.

Luot Bunchhuob, an English-speaking tour guide in Siem Reap, said on May 16 that national tourists visiting Angkor are divided into two groups: students and families. Students visit the Angkor Ceramic Museum – among other places – because they need to do research for assignments or to complete their thesis, while most family visitors visit Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm.

He said that apart from visiting the temple, international tourists often enjoy visits to four other tourist destinations – the Angkor Ceramic Museum, Artisans Angkor, the silk farms of Puok district, and the ecotourism area of Kampong Phluk.

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