Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Discoveries at former capital could change old perceptions

Discoveries at former capital could change old perceptions

People work at Kampong Chhnang’s Longvek archaeological excavation site in December 2015. Flinders University
People work at Kampong Chhnang’s Longvek archaeological excavation site in December 2015. Flinders University

Discoveries at former capital could change old perceptions

The first archaeological excavations at the site of the ancient Cambodian capital of Longvek have unearthed physical evidence that the city was a regional trading hub, helping dispel historical notions that Cambodia underwent centuries of “dark ages” between the Angkorian and the modern era.

Located less than 50 kilometres from Phnom Penh in present-day Kampong Chhnang province, Longvek was the Cambodian capital for almost 200 years following the sack of Angkor by the Siamese in 1431.

During excavations last month, a joint team of archaeologists discovered porcelain from as far away as China and Japan in the foundations of Longvek’s ancient palace, along with ruins of substantial earthen walls and a bronze workshop.

“Archeologists, historians, tourists and the general public – everyone tends to focus on Angkor’s golden age, and when you go to Angkor you can see the reason why,” said Dr Martin Polkinghorne, a research fellow at Flinders University in Australia who is part of a joint team composed of Cambodia’s Ministry of Culture, Flinders and Japan’s Nara Institute.

“But of course Cambodian history continued and was intimately tied to international trade.”

Polkinghorne said Cambodia’s trading wealth was largely based on exporting forest products such as hardwood and animal skins.

In exchange, Cambodia obtained goods such as the Chinese porcelain in the palace, which was dated to the late Ming dynasty in the 16th century, while other pieces of porcelain were found originating from Japan, Vietnam and Thailand.

Polkinghorne said Longvek’s location on the Mekong River was no coincidence.

“One of the reasons Angkor declined was to take advantage of maritime trade. These new capitals were situated close to the sea to benefit.”

The joint archaeological team began a four-year study of Cambodia’s post-Angkor capitals last November. Excavations at Longvek lasted throughout December and the team aims to return there later this year.

Although Polkinghorne said he believed the team was the first to excavate the little-examined capital, he warned that urbanisation from Phnom Penh was at risk of damaging the site, which is not part of a conservation zone like Angkor in Siem Reap.

Son Soubert, an opposition politician who lectures on art history at the Royal University of Fine Arts and studied archaeology in France, said he expected historians to be less prejudiced against Cambodia’s supposed “dark age” due to the era’s increasingly visible trade links.

“There’s a big chunk [of history] that’s been missing,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • First deportees of the year touch down in Cambodia

    Twenty-five Cambodian-Americans landed in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, marking the first such deportations of the year. “On Wednesday, US law enforcement authorities deported 25 Cambodian nationals that immigration judges determined had no legal basis to remain in the US,” said Arend Zwartjes, spokesperson for the US

  • Qatar Airways to connect Doha and Siem Reap town

    Qatar Airways Company QCSC has announced a new route connecting Qatar’s capital Doha with Siem Reap, a move hailed by local officials as a significant step to boost tourist numbers. A Qatar Airways representative, speaking at the Kuwait Aviation Show, announced on Thursday that

  • Sokha defence denies Tech’s claims

    ON DAY two of Kem Sokha’s treason trial, lawyers for the government said the defence had raised questions in an attempt to allow their client to make a public statement and a conclusion to the case, something his legal team denied. Ky Tech, a

  • Cambodian general visits Myanmar to enhance national defence cooperation

    Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) commander-in-chief Vong Pisen is now in Myanmar leading a delegation that aims to improve ties, particularly in national defence, with the fellow Asean member. The timing of Pisen’s four-day visit to the Southeast Asian neighbour is highly symbolic, with

  • Probe underway after wreckage of drone with Chinese characters found

    Air Force Command spokesman Prak Sokha said on Sunday that investigations are underway regarding the wreckage of a drone that was recovered in Koh Kong province’s Koh Sdech commune in Kiri Sakor district. The wreckage has been taken to the capital for further examination,

  • Sokha’s treason trial begins

    The treason trial of Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) president Kem Sokha began at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday with the presentation of a two-minute video clip. The footage, which was the basis of the charge against him, was dismissed by