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Furnace excavations begin at Preah Vihear’s Koh Ker temple

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Researchers begin to excavate the site of an ancient furnace at Koh Ker temple resort. Ministry of Culture

Furnace excavations begin at Preah Vihear’s Koh Ker temple

The National Authority for Preah Vihear in cooperation with the Waseda University of Japan are conducting a research study into the Dey Chhnang Kok Ancient Furnace Station to find and document traces of ancient furnace structures.

Director-general of Cambodia’s National Authority for Preah Vihear Kong Puthikar said that this is the second phase of the study into the Dey Chhnang Kok Ancient Furnace Station at the Koh Ker temple resort.

The study is being conducted in cooperation with Waseda University of Japan’s Dr Yukitsugu Tabata – a leading expert on ancient ceramics in Southeast Asia and China.

“We wanted to know more about the furnaces in the Koh Ker era. We wanted to know how many furnaces there were and how their functions may have differed because at the Koh Ker temple, in the past, we had seen the use of varying shapes and forms of ceramics and tiles,” he said.

He added that the Koh Ker temple area was a former capital of the Khmer Empire in the Angkorean period and therefore there may have been a large population living there and for their daily living needs they would need to construct many buildings utilising ceramics and tiles.

The research underway examining the use of those materials there in detail can help shed light on larger questions like overall population size.

“The ceramics that had been used in the Koh Ker area were different from those found in the Angkor area. The tiles in the Koh Ker area were larger than those in the Angkor area.

“So, in the past, we didn’t know where the tiles had come from. We didn’t know if they had been taken from the Angkor area or from other areas.

“This research will more clearly reveal details about the origins of these ceramics that may allow us to estimate things like the scope of the settlements in the Koh Ker era,” the professor explained.

Director of Resort and Archaeology Department Phin Pheakdey said in February of 2019 that specialists from the Preah Vihear National Authority had once excavated there but they had not yet found any stone furnace chambers.

“At the time, we had found debris such as walls and broken tiles and jars that had been burnt. These are indications that the location could have stone furnace chambers but so far we have not yet found them,” he said.

Pheakdey added that the ancient furnace excavation project is scheduled to last for two weeks from January 25 to February 7 with financial assistance from the Waseda University of Japan along with other Japanese funding sources.

He further stated that if within two weeks stone furnace chambers have been found they will know they have succeeded, but either way the search would continue on at some point in the future because there may be many of those chambers in the area.

“Koh Ker was the former capital of the Khmer Empire so the Dey Chhnang Kok Ancient Furnace Station must have been quite large and it probably had an entire community of artisans producing ceramics to serve the whole Koh Ker region,” Pheakdey said.

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