Cambodia (Examiner.com): Archaeologists in Cambodia got some help over the weekend from a group of grimy kids. The children were bathing in a newly dug watering hole when they stumbled across six ancient Buddhist statues that experts are estimating to be more than a thousand years old.
In an early morning press conference Prak Sakhon, an official with the Provincial Culture Department, said the six statues that were found were close to the banks of the newly excavated pond in a small village about fifty miles north of Phnom Penh, the capital city. Prak Sakhom estimated that the statues ranged from the ninth to twelfth centuries.
The largest of the statues weighs about twenty pounds and stands nearly half a yard tall. It is expected that archaeologists will excavate the area where they were discovered in hopes of unearthing more of the ancient statues and discovering why they were there. At this time the Provincial Culture Department was not releasing photos of the statues.
The find it notable not just for the age of the statues and their religious significance but for the fact that they were turned over to the authorities in Cambodia at all. Cambodia is full of archaeological sites and artifacts but lately more of them have been falling into the hands of looters and black market dealers than archaeologists and museums.
In 2004 UNESCO, a specialized agency within the United Nations organization, removed Cambodia’s famous Angkor Wat temple complex from the World Heritage in Danger list but the looting of the countries antiquities has only been increasing over the years. In market stalls across the country antiquities are sold openly, especially to tourists. Ancient bead work sells for as little as one U.S. dollar while ancient tools go for around $15.
A non-profit group called Heritage Watch has been working to protect all of the ancient treasures of South East Asia by educating rural villagers about the importance of these artifacts and keeping them in context- and out of the hands of black market dealers.
The group has also established museums in the most threatened areas of Cambodia. The six ancient Buddhist statues found will be traveling to and housed at one of these kinds of provincial museums where they will undergo further testing and research. Many of Cambodia’s ancient artifacts are removed from sites and kept stored in museum warehouses to keep them out of the hands of looters.
You can learn more about Heritage Watch’s mission and donate to their cause online here.