Popular Archaeology published an article about the discovery of five pre-Angkorian temples in Cambodia’s Oddar Meanchay province in February 2013. Archaeological field survey and excavation work in Cambodia is often hampered by the presence of land mines, legacies of the bloody civil wars that threatened to tear the country apart in the 1970s, but….
…Despite that danger, on that day, in February of 2013, [Nady] Phann and his team discovered five pre-Angkorian temples. These were temples that had been built before the rise of Angkor, a region of Cambodia that served as the center of the Khmer Empire, the most powerful empire of ancient Southeast Asia. Angkor flourished from approximately the 9th to the 15th centuries, AD, but these temples were made of brick and, according to Phann, they were probably built between the 6th and 8th centuries. Some were almost completely ruined. Others still stood. As he always does when he finds a new temple, he noted the exact location – latitude and longitude – took a few photos, and sketched a plan on a piece of paper. His favorite site, which the locals call ‘The Temple of the Black Water Lake’, consists of three temples in a line close to a nearly dried-up reservoir, with the tallest structure in the middle between the two smaller ones. He also recorded the names of the other sites: the ‘Little Monkey Temple’, the ‘Red Temple’, and strangely, the ‘Economic Development Temple’.
“I don’t know how (the economic development) temple got its name,” Phann admitted. “Maybe it comes from the Khmer Rouge. We have to study the names of the temples — (to find out) if the villagers gave the names or if the name relates to an inscription.”
He was pleased, but not completely blown away by his discovery. That is because more than 150 years after French traveler Henri Mouhot first stumbled upon Angkor Wat (Cambodia’s most popular tourist attraction, which is sometimes described as the world’s largest religious monument) archaeologists working in Cambodia are still discovering ancient temples almost every year.
Hundreds of Angkorian and pre-Angkorian temples have been discovered in Cambodia over the last two decades but the temples at Angkor in Siem Reap are by far the best known and most visited. The Angkor Wat temple complex attracts over half a million visitors each year and was featured in the 2001 film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider as well as in the 1999 game Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation.
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