Hong Ronet, holding a human skull unearthed from Phum Snay.
Japanese archaeologist Miyatsuka Yoshito is returning to Siem Reap this month with the aim of creating a museum for the artefacts he unearthed at Phum Snay, in Banteay Meanchey.
Despite being heavily looted when it was first discovered in 1999 by road workers, the Phum Snay excavation site has proffered numerous skeletons and pots that are estimated to be over 2,000 years old. Yoshito is leading a research team on a five-year excavation of the site, which began in 2007, and is supported by the Japanese government.
The team has uncovered 47 burials since 2007 and the artefacts they have exhumed so far are stored in plastic tubs sitting on the floor of dig manager Sophia's Siem Reap office. But Yoshito wants to give the artefacts a more dignified home behind glass displays in a museum.
"He will come back this month and discuss it with the Ministry of Culture," said Hong Ronet, a graduate student from the Royal University of Fine Arts who is working with Yoshito. "He's talked with them already about the idea, and they said ‘Up to you'. So maybe he will build it this month."
Hong Ronet joined the excavation team this year and has been given the duty of meticulously cleaning the more recently resurrected artefacts, including the human bones.
"For the skulls we don't use water," she said. "It might damage them. We just use a scalpel, or thin bamboo. But we clean the pottery with water."
She was attracted to the project to learn more about life in Cambodia in ancient times. "It's our history, so it's very interesting. I want to know how they lived and what they did."
This year, she hopes the team will find out more information about the ethnic groups the skeletons belonged to and whether they are from the pre-Angkorian Funan empire.