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Hilltop statue fragments may indicate ancient temple site

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Villagers found a statue on an ancient hill at Prasat Balanng district in Kampong Thom province. SUPPLIED

Hilltop statue fragments may indicate ancient temple site

An ancient site was discovered on a hill in Peam Atit village in Sakream commune of Kampong Thom province’s Prasat Balang district. An official from the provincial Department of Culture and Fine Arts will mark the site this week.

Local residents discovered the site after unearthing fragments of carvings and statues and reported the finds to officials.

Provincial culture department director Hin Sophoan told The Post on August 8 that officials would inspect and record the location of the ancient hill to gather more information before registering it as an ancient site as stated by law.

He added that when the hill is registered, local people and the owner of a plantation, where the hills is located, and local authorities have to sign a document promising not to alter the site. The people will have to participate in maintaining and protecting it.

According to a report from Prasat Balang district’s office of culture and fine arts, there were fragments of stone statues on the hill. But at first glance, they were difficult to identify as the fragments were small. Only excavation of the site will reveal whether there is a temple foundation or once there was a temple on the hill.

“This site was a shrine in the Middle Period – between 300 and 500 years ago. They had placed a statue of Buddha. Anyway, I am going there this week. But first, we have to mark it as an ancient hill or an ancient temple,” Sophoan said.

Seap Seyha, a Siem Reap tour guide, expressed interest in the discovery and went to inspect the site.

He told The Post on August 8 that site is an ancient hill because in the area, people found statues and pits where artifacts were found. And not far from the hill, there are several other ancient temples such as Daun Mao, Tamao, O’Prasat and Ambek.

“As for this hill, we have seen stones and statues, which are ancient sculptures in the temple of Bayon style. That is how we identified the site as ancient. But this site is now a plantation. Moreover, around this site there are also ancient temple foundations,” he said.

Seyha said people had lived on the hill and set up a shrine during the reign of Jayavarman VII in the 12th or 13th century. It is located about 15km from the temple of Preah Khan in Kampong Svay district, which is an ancient city.

He said according to history, King Jayavarman VII had fled to this hill to recruit troops to fight the Cham army who had invaded Angkor City.

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