A 16-strong international team has begun work on
saving Angkor's oldest temple Prah Ko, which dates back to 879.
repairs are needed on the temple, which unlike Angkor Wat and other better-known
monuments at the complex, was made of brick and stucco, which still remains.
The Royal Angkor Foundation (RAF) is organizing the work.
founder Janos Jelen, a Hungarian, said: "At Prah Ko we have to deal with urgent
intervention first. Only cobwebs were holding it together."
In a written
statement the RAF said it was saving "the last centimeters of the remaining
stucco decorations from the dawn of the Angkor empire."
The repairs are
the first since 1927 and plant growth, microbes and heat have been taking their
toll, Jelen said. In addition there are big cracks in the buildings, and bat
droppings have been causing decay.
Jelen has been joined by experts from
Hungary, Guatemala, Italy and England.
The team will be working in three
phases, over three years, to conserve and repair the terrace and six towers with
their ornate lintels and doorways.
Built under the rule of Indravarman I
(877-889), Prah Ko was constructed of clay bricks and adorned with stucco -
During the first phase of their work the team will be
injecting grout behind the stucco to keep it adhered to the walls.
will also clean and remove algae and repoint the brick work to consolidate the
stucco, mixing filler and binder to the right color and texture.
will also be carried out to fill cracks which cause the building to leak,
further eroding the edifice.
Khmer bricks were well manufactured and
fixed with an unknown binding material, probably vegetable. Sandstone was used
for decoration, built block upon block, without any binder.
In the second
phase the team will consolidate the decorative elements.
Each tower has
four doorways, one is open and three are blind with fixed doors depicted in
stone and octagonal pillars.
The lintels contain elegant foliated scroll
motifs, lions heads and garlands sprouting horses and riders, nagas and
Not until the third phase will the team tackle
Two photographers are helping the team document
their work and prepare for future projects.
Funding of $125,000 for the
first phase at Prah Ko has come from the German Ministry of Foreign
One of the aims of the RAF, which was established in June 1992
by His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk and Hungarian President Arpad Goncz, is to
train Khmers to carry on the work.
Student Ly Vanna is one of them. He is
in the final year of his degree at the School of Fine Arts and was called on by
the team after he worked on another temple at the Angkor complex, Banteay
Hungarian Laszlo Nagy, chief technical adviser of the Prah Ko
project, made a special request to the Minister of Culture for him. "We fought
to get him. He is very good," he said.
Vanna's father died under the
Khmer Rouge regime and he lives with his disabled mother and his sister.
He said: "I was always interested in the richness of my country and the
exuberance of these monuments."
The student is writing his dissertation
on stucco and 9-10th century motifs and will spend two months working on the
Vanna, 25, is gaining experience alongside Guatemalan stucco
expert Rodolfo Lujan, who worked on the temples at Pagan, Burma which date from
the same period.
The Foundation is also training five other Khmer
artisans from Conservation d'Angkor, the authority which runs the temple