Increase in Conservation Work Planned for Angkorian Temple

Banteay Chhmar, the expansive Angkorian temple in Banteay Meanchey province noted for its elaborate bas-reliefs, is set to see a significant increase in conservation work over the next five years following an agreement between the Ministry of Culture and the London-based School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), officials said on Monday.

The agreement—formalized in a short ceremony at the ministry presided over by Culture Minister Phoeurng Sackona and British Ambassador Bill Longhurst—came at the end of a weeklong visit by a team of academics from SOAS, who spent two days surveying the temple site in Thma Puok district.

Culture Minister Phoeurng Sackona, right, shares a toast with Joanna Wolfarth, coordinator of the Banteay Chhmar conservation project, during a ceremony at the Culture Ministry in Phnom Penh on Monday. (Olivia Harlow/The Cambodia Daily)
Culture Minister Phoeurng Sackona, right, shares a toast with Joanna Wolfarth, coordinator of the Banteay Chhmar conservation project, during a ceremony at the Culture Ministry in Phnom Penh on Monday. (Olivia Harlow/The Cambodia Daily)

Ashley Thompson, the chair of SOAS’ Center of South East Asian Studies, said the partnership would bring a “massive difference” in the level of conservation work at Banteay Chhmar, which was built by King Jayavarman VII in the late 12th century.

“We’re looking at a much more extensive…and sustained conservation program,” Ms. Thompson said, noting that the project’s initial focus would be the restoration of a satellite temple to the north of the main temple and “reconsolidating” the main temple’s north wall and its numerous bas-reliefs.

She added that funding would come from the U.S.-based Alphawood Foundation, but declined to provide an exact cost for the project, saying only that it would be a multimillion-dollar endeavor.

A number of the temple’s facets made it of interest to researchers, Ms. Thompson said.

“I think it is in some ways the extent of the site—it’s absolutely enormous…. And there’s the kind of extraordinary architecture and art of the Jayavarman VII period,” she said.

“It’s in-your-face exciting. It’s narrative reliefs that tell you about history, that tell you about mythology.”

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