A Stone Turtle Discovered in a Dry Pond at Angkor

A stone turtle that was spotted at the dried-out pond west of Bayon temple on April 19, 2024. Photo: Som Kakada

SIEM REAP — The sculpture of a turtle was discovered by APSARA National Authority workers during the restoration of a dried-out pond east of the Bayon temple in the Angkor Archeological Park.

Som Kakada, an archaeologist with the APSARA National Authority—the government agency managing Angkor Park—said that, on April 19, his team spotted the sculpture, which was buried 10 centimeters below ground.

This sculpture, whose dimensions are 57x47x21 centimeters, is quite different from the one previously found at the Srang Srah reservoir near the Banteay Kdei temple in Angkor Park, Kakada said. The one found now had smaller eyes and was facing south toward the temple, he said.

Caption: Restoration of a pond east of Bayon temple on April 25, 2024.

The pond in which this sculpture was just discovered had been dried for a very long time, Kakada said. The work to restore it was initiated in 2023, the project including studying it and restoring it so it can contribute to the landscape and beauty of the Bayon temple, he said.

Built in the late 12th-early 13th centuries, the Bayon temple stood in the middle of the capital city of King Jayavrman VII’s kingdom. As Long Kosal, deputy director general of APSARA Authority, explained, “[t]he APSARA National Authority has plans to promote the value of what was created by King Jayavarman VII during the 12th century for people of the 21st century to witness.”

Caption: The bottom of the dried-out pond where the stone turtle was found. 

It is believed that a great number of artefacts still lie below ground at Angkor, waiting to be unearthed, Kosal said. “We might think that the artefacts are lost, but they aren’t: They are there” he said. “We just need time and effort to discover and study what our ancestors have given us.”

Unearthing this heritage left for today’s people is part of what makes restoration and preservation of monuments and artifacts so important at archeological sites, he said.

On April 22, the turtle sculpture was transported to the Preah Norodom Sihanouk-Angkor Museum in Siem Reap city for preservation and research.

Caption: Hang Peou, director general of APSARA National Authority, inspects the stone turtle at the restoration site. Photo: Som Kakada

Turtles play an important role in Hindu mythology according to which the earth is supported by four elephants standing on the back of a turtle. They also appear in a scene of the Hindu story “Churning of the Ocean of Milk,” which features on the wall of a gallery of the Angkor Wat temple in Angkor Park.

Written in Khmer for ThmeyThmey News, the story was translated by Ky Chamna for Cambodianess News.

To read the story in Khmer, click here.

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