Architectural Features : Information After Excavation The sanctuary complex can be divided into 2 layers. Firstly, the outer layer, which comprises laterite walls surrounding the whole group of buildings. The walls have only 2 entrances; the Eastern Gopura (gateway) to be called the Outer Eastern Gopura, which is the main entrance; and a small gateway on the western side. Secondly, the inner layer comprises a group of buildings surrounded by galleries on four sides. The middle of each gallery is located with a gopura, namely, Inner Eastern Gopura, Western Gopura, Northern Gopura and Southern Gopura. The Inner Eastern Gopura is the largest and the only entrance to the inside. Between the walls and galleries is a moat, which is now dried up instead of being filled with water as in olden days. The excavation revealed the width of the moat to be 20 metres approximately. The area inside the galleries is a terrace paved with laterite. The main sanctuary is situated in the middle, to the front of which are 2 buildings called bannalai (library). These Bannalais are located to the north and south of the main sanctuary, with their entrances facing east.
To the front of the Outer Eastern Gopura is a causeway paved with laterite and decorated with large stone pillars called “Sao Nang Riang”, standing in rows on both sides of the causeway which leads to the Barai (reservoir). The Outer Eastern Gopura is a large structure built of sandstone, with main entrance in the middle, which opens to the inner area. This gopura was restored before a systematic study was carried out; therefore, it is not mentioned in this paper. From the Outer Eastern Gopura, there is a laterite-paved causeway decorated with Sao Nang Riang leading to the Inner Eastern Gopura.
The galleries are built of sandstone and laterite with laterite base. The outer walls are mainly laterite except those parts with carvings i.e. window and door frames and other decorative elements, which are made of sandstone. The inner walls of the galleries comprise openings made of sandstone. It is noticeable that the Inner Eastern Gopura is more prominent than other 3 gopuras. Apart from its larger size, the Inner Eastern Gopura is built with sandstone on laterite base and has tiered roofs, however, the excavation did not revealed the original feature of the roof. Other gopuras of the galleries are mainly made of laterite and the roofs are simple, not tiered. The 3 other gopuras have porticos that face to the main sanctuary, with entrance of each gopuras in the middle of the portico.
The north and south bannalais have same planning and design. The entrance of each building is situated to the west, facing the main sanctuary. The front of the building is a portico and the inner room has windows with traces of stone balustrades on both sides. The bases of both buildings are made of laterite and the buildings are of sandstone.
The main sanctuary is a Prasat (building with high-tiered roof) style architecture built of white sandstone on a large laterite base. The interior has only one chamber for performing rituals. There are 4 stairs, one on each side. Above the stairs is a base which supports the body of the building, which has settled into the base because of its enormous load. Most of the upper part of the building had collapsed thus only 2 of the walls existed, namely, the western and the southern walls with blind doors. The roof part remained only the stone core, therefore, the architectural feature was difficult to comprehend. Surrounding the main sanctuary are 16 stone pillars, similar to Sao Nang Riang but smaller.
Figure 6: Experimental reassembling of fallen stones
The experimental reassembling of fallen stones and dismantled stones, and comparative study of the monument to other monuments with similar characteristics were carried out in order to get a better understanding of the monument. Dating of the monument helped in analyzing and hypothesizing of the missing parts with more accuracy. The comparative study as mentioned was defined to the dates directly related to those specified in the 2 inscriptions, that is, between Koh Ker period ( 921 – 944 AD.) and Baphuon period (1017 – 1087). The styles between these 2 periods comprises Pre Rup (947 – 972), Banteay Srei ( 967 – 1007) an Khleang (972 – 1017). Details of study of each element are described as follows :
The causeway decorated with Sao Nang Riang : The excavation rendered a large number of shards which were parts of Sao Nang Riang, however, the complete pillar was not discovered. It was known afterward that some complete ones were kept at Wat Ta Phraya, therefore, the working team contacted the temple to get the information and asked for cooperation in returning the pillars to be used in restoration. Although there were several cases of causeway decorated with Sao Nang Riang, the knowledge on criteria of using Sao Nag Riang is not sufficient to reach a conclusion. However, from comparative study, it was discovered that the first use of causeways decorated with Sao Nang Riang to accentuate the entrance was at Banteay Srei.
Inner Eastern Gopura : the experimental reassembling was successful in completing several sets of gable. The information obtained was analyzed and concluded that the top of roof decoration was in shape of a small gable, the same as the one found at the gopura of Banteay Srei. Nevertheless, the gopura at Sdok Kok Thom is larger and more developed in design. The features of carvings on lintels clearly indicate the Baphuon style. The gable decorated with Nagas and foliage indicate a Khleang style or the style at the turning point between the 2 periods, which is different from Banteay Srei. As for the Northern, Southern and Western Gopuras, the excavation rendered a large amount of brick and Brali (roof ridge decorative element), therefore, it is believed that the roofs of these gopuras were covered with brick and decorated with Bralis on the ridges. The information was confirmed by the marks on the gable which were made to be connected to the brick roof.
Galleries : The plan of the galleries roughly indicate the date of the building, that is, the first galleries in Khmer art appeared in Khleang period. The study of the designs on the gable rendered the same result as mentioned in the topic of gopuras, that the style is the turning point between Khleang and Baphuon.
The experimental reassembling revealed that the buildings were gabled, as seen from 3 sets of gable stones for each building. The stone roofs were made with ventilation grills at the clerestories on both sides, which is comparable to the Bannalais at Prasat Thom, Koh Ker, which are 2 buildings standing parallel to each other, with entrances facing the main sanctuary. Monuments of this style are seen in later periods i.e. Banteay Srei and Khleang, etc. the designs on the gables also indicate the connection of Khleang and Baphuon styles.
Figure 7 – 8: Inner Eastern Gopura
Figure 9: Somasutra pipe
Main Sanctuary : From experimental reassembling, the inner chamber was discovered with remains of a large image base, believably a Shiva Lingam as mentioned in the inscriptions. The wall on the northern side, in the middle of the blind door, has a Somasutra pipe for carrying holy water from the ceremony inside the building to worshippers outside. The gables of the main sanctuary were found to be of 5 different sizes, the largest of which fits the size of the gateway in form of 2-tiered gables. The 4 other gables, therefore, should match the 4-tiered roof of the building, whose stones and the topmost water jar-shaped stone, and a stone for laying sacred objects, have been found. All tiers of the roof, therefore, have been discovered and the complete architectural feature of the building was successfully concluded. A lintel was found during work whose size and location when discovered indicated its position to be above the main entrance on the eastern side. The designs on the lintel belong to Baphuon style. There were other lintels from Sdok Kok thom which had been kept and exhibited at Prachinburi National Museum, the size and style of which indicated their original positions to be at the main sanctuary. The gables, after experimental reassembling, are of the same style as those of the gopuras, depicting Nagas and decorative designs inside the gable frame , terminated on each side with a Naga head, suggesting the turning point between Khleang and Baphuon styles. The corner decorations of each tier of the roof called “Nak Pak” are in shape of Nagas, the same style as those found at gables. However, the building of a single Prasat on a large laterite base is different from the main sanctuaries found in other Baphuon sites, which have a rectangular hall called Mandapa connecting to the main hall in the front by an Antarala. The feature of the main sanctuary of Sdok Kok Thom is more referable to mountain style sanctuaries, for instance, Paksi Chamkrong and Prasat Thom in Koh Ker art.
Figure 10: Naga, Khleang – Baphuon styles
Figure 11: Sao Nang Riang pillars from Wat Ta Phraya
Figure 12: Sao Nang Riang pillars surrounding the main sanctuary
Balance between Authenticity and Interpretation
Information obtained from experimental reassembling, especially the information on the main sanctuary, give us a perception on the complete architectural feature of the building although it was unable to discover all the original stones. Evidences of stones from every layer confirm the height and decorations of the original. The discovery and restoration of remains of Shiva Lingam base and Somasutra pipe that carried the perfumed water or milk that the Brahmins poured over the Shiva Lingam and became holy water to the worshippers who waited outside the sacred area, is significant in terms of interpretation on function, meaning, and spirit of the monument even though they are not in complete form and the Shiva lingam was lost.
Restorations of Khmer monuments in Thailand have followed the principles laid out in the Venice charter rather strictly that the restoration of several sites had a large number of original stones left unused, which are mostly those belonged to the upper parts of the building that required a large number of new stones for support in order to return them to their original positions. However, the laying of stones on the ground or exhibiting them in the museum do not satisfactorily help visitor on understanding of the monument.
In the case of Sdok Kok Thom that complete information has been obtained, the concept on interpretation has been applied in restoration design. The authenticity of materials can be achieved by returning original stones to their positions with original techniques, using no mortar, whereas authenticity of architectural form has also been taken into account. Additional materials was specified to have similar colour to the originals for harmony of overall appearance, yet distinguishable from the originals by texturing, that is, the new blocks of stone were finished with iron tools as those in the past, but with neater texture, different from ancient craftsmanship. In the case of carved stones, the additional blocks were roughly carved for connection of lines and form as well as perceptibility of architectural feature, for instance, the new stone for Naga head part was carved in form of Naga head, not merely a block of stone.
For the reasons as mentioned, this site uses more additional stones than other restoration projects in the past; however, the complete and comprehensible architectural form is the result.
For authenticity of setting, the broken Sao Nang Riang pillars have been repaired and returned in their original positions around the main sanctuary and along the causeways. These attempts have been made to restore the landscape features of the past, the same concept as the dredging of the surrounding ponds and revival of the Barai.
Later in the conservation process, a replica of Sdok Kok Thom Inscription no.2, important historical evidence, will be made and placed in its original position indicated in the record in order to complete the meaning and spirit of Sdok Kok Thom.
Figure 13 : The main sanctuary restored to a complete and comprehensible architectural formfrom the paper presented in Theme 7 – Conservation, restoration of stone and architectonic monuments