Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Untampered and intact ancient bridges to stay that way




Untampered and intact ancient bridges to stay that way

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Although it looks slightly tilted, one of the Angkor-era bridges, Spean Ta Ong, stands solid through the test of time. Photo supplied

Untampered and intact ancient bridges to stay that way

Driving along National Road 6 from Phnom Penh towards Kampong Thom and Siem Reap, one will spot the looming heads of stone serpents – or nagas – on the hundreds of ancient bridges built between the 10th and 14th centuries.

Acrhaeologists and researchers agree that while the names of the bridges may have changed since their establishment in the Angkor era, one can still tell apart the types of ancient bridges from their differing sizes.

“For example, a bridge that looks smaller is called a young bridge, or ‘Spean Khmeng’ and a bridge that is near water flow is called widow bridge or ‘Spean Memai’,”archeologist and deputy director of the Apsara Authority, Im Sok Rithy, said.

‘Spean’ gives the meaning of bridge in Khmer.

Among these bridges, Sok Rithy said, the longest bridge located along National Road 6, in the local Chi Kreng district, is the ‘Spean Preah Toeus’ bridge – or direction bridge – which was restored in the late 19th century by distinguished French researcher Bernard Philippe Groslier.

National Road 6, which recently underwent an upgrade and enlargement, was meticulously reconstructed with difficulty to avoid interfering with the ancient bridges’ structures. All along the 400-kilometre-long highway, hundreds of detours were specifically paved to avoid damaging the old bridges.

“A section of the new National 6 road, from Siem Reap to Kampong Thom, was forged on the remaining shape of the road built during the same time as the bridges – in the Angkor era,” he added.

An ongoing research study, the Living Angkor Road project, was started in 2005 to support anthropologists’ work on the Kingdom’s roads of relic. Endorsed by the Thailand Research Fund and the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor (Apsara Authority), the study involves anthropologists attributing the remaining portions of the age-old Angkor roads to the different provinces of the ancient Khmer empire.

Sok Rithy, who is closely associated with the project, said the bridges were constructed with stone, laterite – a reddish clay material – and sandstone.

“From what I know, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts (MCFA) is preserving and protecting these ancient bridges and what remains of their connecting infrastrucutre,” he said.

“Today, we are learning more about the role of local roads of that era and, more importantly, we want to know about the extent and scale of the Khmer empire.”

To preserve the relics of a once-grand and proud empire, MCFA spokesman Thai Norak Sathya said a lot of care had gone into the construction of the revamped National Road 6 to ensure that not a single inch of the old bridges were damaged in the process, citing the Spean Kampong Kdei bridge, which remains untouched.

“We haven’t placed ancient bridges on the cultural heritage list yet but the ministry works hard to preserve the ancient strucutres. Now, we only allow pedestriations and villagers who travel by motorbikes or bicycles to travel along the bridges,” Norak Sathya said.

Cars and other large vehicles are prohibited from wheeling onto the bridges – which, although have shown impressively enduring strength over the last hundreds of years, should not be vulnerable to excessive weight.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Kingdom one of safest to visit in Covid-19 era’

    The Ministry of Tourism on January 12 proclaimed Cambodia as one of the safest countries to visit in light of the Kingdom having been ranked number one in the world by the Senegalese Economic Prospective Bureau for its success in handling the Covid-19 pandemic. In rankings

  • Kingdom accepts Chinese vaccine, PM first to get jab

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said China would offer Cambodia an immediate donation of one million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by the Sinopharm company. In an audio message addressing the public on the night of January 15, he said Cambodia has accepted the offer and

  • Reeling in Cambodia’s real estate sector

    A new norm sets the scene but risks continue to play out in the background A cold wind sweeps through the streets of Boeung Trabek on an early January morning as buyers and traders engage in commerce under bright blue skies. From a distance, the

  • Hun Sen: Lakes filled in for national developments

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced continued operations to fill some lakes in Phnom Penh to create land for developments, though he is against the unrelated practice of damming rivers or blocking waterways. Speaking at the inauguration of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport

  • Local media loses a giant, and The Post a great friend

    Cheang Sokha, a gifted and streetwise reporter who rose to the highest ranks of Cambodian media and was beloved for his sharp intelligence, world-class humour and endless generosity, died on Friday in his hometown of Phnom Penh. He was 42. His wife, Sok Sophorn, said he

  • PM asks India for vaccine help

    Prime Minister Hun Sen is seeking assistance from India for the provision of Covid-19 vaccines as the country has produced its own vaccine which is scheduled to be rolled out to more than 300 million Indians this year. The request was made during his meeting with