Archaeological field school from Singapore helped unearth rare ancient guardian statue at excavation in Angkor Wat

Screengrab from video

An archaeological field school from Singapore has been part of an incredible discovery at Angkor Wat — in Cambodia for a 12-day excavation, they helped unearth a rare, late 12th-century statue buried in a pit about 40cm deep. Just two days into a test excavation, the 2m-tall sandstone statue, crafted in the image of a guardian, was dug up last Saturday (Jul 29) at the ancient Tonle Snguot hospital complex.

As most of Angkor Wat’s valuable items have been looted, this particular find has been lauded by global experts as the most significant one in recent years.

Dr Kyle Latinis from Singapore’s ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute’s Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre (NSC), who’s head of the field team, told The Straits Times that “it is extremely rare to discover something so significant just days into our dig. We were lucky and in the right place. We also had a good sampling strategy.”

“You do not expect to find statues with their heads intact at Angkor Wat because looters are rampant in these areas and most of the ancient Cambodian statues are held illegally in the hands of private collectors,” he added.

The field school, which is on its fifth session, is a three-week archaeological research and training programme conducted in Singapore and Cambodia. The school and its excavation receive funds amounting to about $70,000 from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This year saw four out of the 14 participants hailing from Singapore — the rest are from countries around the region like Philippines and Cambodia — with most of the team being students and young professionals.

In Cambodia, the Singapore team scoped the project and sampling area, as well as directed the excavation. The statue itself was recovered by Cambodian archaeologists, among others, and has been brought to a museum for protection.

According to Latinis, the statue was most likely one of a pair that flanked a temple or shrine area. It was thought to have collapsed near its original spot after the site was abandoned.

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