Archaeologists have dug up what is probably one of the most important archaeological finds in Southeast Asia. A site near the world-famous Angkor Wat has revealed an ancient secret—a six-foot-tall statue in good condition.
The statue has already lost its arms and lower legs, but the engravings on its body are still quite clear. The archaeologists had expected to find small items like shards of pottery. They did not expect to unearth a six-foot tall statue that can give researchers significant insight into how ancient people lived in the area.
The site is about 800 years old, so the statue probably has quite the history to tell. Interestingly, the statue was buried only 16 inches below the surface. Archaeologists found it on July 30, which was only the second day of the excavation project. It seems to be another example of a serendipitous archaeological find, since researchers were intending to study a canal. Instead, they found an 440-pound artifact.
It was like something that happens in the movies, say the archaeologists of the Apsara Authority who found the statue. Imagine expecting routine finds like broken pottery, then coming across a statue with a significant history.
Long ago, in its heyday, the statue had stood guard at the entrance of what are now ruins of a 12th century hospital. The hospital once stood near the north entrance of Angkor Thom, the last capital city of the Khmer empire. The Apsara Authority said that King Jayavarman VII, known for progressive social policies, built 102 hospitals during his reign.
The Khmer empire, which also built Angkor Wat, lasted until the 15th century. When the empire fell, inhabitants of Angkor Thom fled the city.
The Khmer Rouge regime had destroyed many artifacts in these ancient sites. When this regime fell, looters took whichever artifacts they can find. Thus, the discovery of the guardian statue is quite important in an area where much of the material culture has already been destroyed or stolen.
There are four other hospitals in the same area near Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, though archaeologists haven't properly excavated the ruins. It's entirely possible that there may still be similarly important finds in those sites in the future.
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