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Foreign dealers, collectors return Angkorian antiquities

Foreign dealers, collectors return Angkorian antiquities

090615_05a.jpg
090615_05a.jpg

Govt hails pivotal moment for Cambodian culture as National Museum celebrates an upgrade to its ageing lighting system

Photo by:

CHRISTOPHER SHAY

Deputy Prime Minister Sok An examines an 8th-century linga at a

ceremony at the National Museum on Friday.

FIVE foreign donors handed over five Khmer artefacts at a ceremony Friday to celebrate a new electrical and lighting system at the National Museum.

"Cambodia has lost a lot in the last 20 to 30 years. Anything that is given back to them of any value is of great importance," Douglas Latchford, a collector of Khmer antiquities, told the Post shortly before giving his speech in Khmer.

Son Soubert, a former lecturer at the faculty of archaeology at Royal University of Fine Arts, pointed to a pendant donated by Latchford as a particularly important antiquity.

An inscription on the pendant dates the piece from 1218  as part the royal collection of a princess under the reign of Jayavarman VII at the height of the Angkorian empire.

The piece, or ones very similar to it, can be seen in Angkorian carvings, but the actual amulet is a unique addition to the National Museum.

"It's exactly what we've seen in the carvings," Son Soubert said. "It's a reality."

In a speech at the event, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An thanked the donors for their "kind and generous contribution", saying that now "the National Museum will be able to continue to improve its storytelling".

Decades of looting and antiquities smuggling have led to many stolen pre-Angkorian and Angkorian-era artefacts ending up on the international market.

One torso of a female divinity, donated by New York antiques dealer Doris Wiener, is on a UNESCO-sponsored list of 100 objects stolen from Angkor.

Sok An also hailed the new electric wiring and lighting as an important step to protect the 89-year-old museum and create a "more fruitful experience" for the visitor.

"The renewal of the electrical system will significantly enhance ... the beauty of the artefacts," he told the audience.

The old lighting, according to Him Chhem, minister of culture and fine arts, was a serious fire hazard.

"Old wiring lay loose in the roof space on top of the timber ceiling. It was largely unprotected by conduit," Him Chhem said.

The new electrical lighting system cost US$192,500 and the money came from 22 foreign donors, many of whom were in attendance at the ceremony.

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