Six weeks ago the Metropolitan Museum of Art sent two of its top executives to Cambodia to resolve a thorny dispute: whether two pieces of ancient Khmer art that the museum has long prominently exhibited were the product of looting.
In days they had their answer. Cambodian officials documented that the two 10th-century Khmer statues, donated to the Met in four pieces as separate gifts between 1987 and 1992, had indeed been smuggled out of a remote jungle temple around the time of the country’s civil war in the 1970s.
On Friday the museum said it would repatriate the life-size sandstone masterworks, known as the Kneeling Attendants, which have guarded the doorway to the Met’s Southeast Asian galleries since they opened in 1994. Read more.
Scientists have long known that the sandstone blocks used to build the famous Angkor Wat temple and other monuments in the ancient Cambodian city of Angkor came from quarries at the foot of a sacred mountain nearby. But how did the 5 million to 10 million blocks, some weighing more than 1500 kilograms, reach Angkor? Researchers report in a paper in press at the Journal of Archaeological Science that when they examined Google Earth maps of the area, they saw lines that looked like a transportation network. Field surveys revealed that the lines are a series of canals, connected by short stretches of road and river, that lead from the quarries straight to Angkor. The roads and canals—some of which still hold water—would’ve carried blocks from the 9th century to the 13th century on a total journey of 37 kilometers or so. Read more.
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - Authorities in Cambodia say children bathing in a newly dug pond accidentally unearthed six ancient Buddhist statues believed to be around 1,000 years old.
Provincial Culture Department official Prak Sakhon says the statues were found Wednesday in Khleng Por, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of capital Phnom Penh.
Sakhon says the statues are believed to be from the ninth to the 12th centuries, with the biggest just over a half-meter (half-yard) tall and weighing about nine kilograms (20 pounds).
She said Friday the statues have been moved to a provincial museum while authorities investigate.
The pond had been dug recently and the statues were found buried in mud close to its banks. (source)
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia is banning smoking at the Angkor temple archaeological site.
A government official said Thursday the rule will promote the health and comfort of visitors and prevent forest fires.
Tan Sambu said “No smoking” signs will be added and workers will help spread the word under the effort started Wednesday. He is vice secretary general of the Apsara Authority that manages the temples.
More than 2 million foreign and domestic tourists visit the site in Siem Reap in the country’s northwest annually. The structures were built from the ninth to the 14th century. (source)
The Cambodian government is convinced that two life-size 10th-century statues that have anchored the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Southeast Asian galleries for nearly two decades were looted from a jungle temple and plans to ask for their return.
“The government is very serious about moving this forward, and we are getting much legal advice,” said Im Sokrithy, a director of Apsara, the Cambodian agency that oversees heritage and land management at the sprawling temple complex where, archaeologists say, the statues stood for centuries. “We are taking a forceful position, and we hope they can be returned.”
The twin sandstone figures, called the Kneeling Attendants, flank the doorway of the gallery where the Met displays its small but globally significant collection of artifacts from the glory days of Khmer civilization. Read more.
NEW YORK (AP).- Sotheby’s is working to help return an ancient statue to Cambodia after the government claimed it had been illegally removed from the country decades ago. The auction house said Wednesday it took the 1,000-year-old relic off the auction block a day before a sale scheduled for March 24, 2011, after Cambodia sent a letter asking Sotheby’s to do so and arrange for its return.
The 5-foot (1.5-meter) -tall sandstone sculpture of a mythical warrior in an elaborate headdress had been estimated to sell for up to $3 million. Sotheby’s identified the seller as a European collector who purchased the work from a London dealer in 1975, almost two decades before a 1993 Cambodia law prohibited the removal of cultural artifacts without government permission.
The auction house said it informed Cambodia about the statue in writing months before the sale, in November 2010. Jane Levine, senior vice president and worldwide compliance director for Sotheby’s, said the government did not respond until March 23, 2011, a day before the auction, when the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO contacted the auction house on Cambodia’s behalf. Read more.
A French couple was arrested at Aranyaprathet border checkpoint in Sa Kaeo province yesterday for possessing relics that appear to be ancient statues of two Hindu gods.
Officials have detained the two French nationals, aged 69 and 60 years old, for questioning because they did not have a permit to import historic items.
The couple was crossing the border from Poi Pet in Cambodia to Thai soil at the time of their arrest.
They told Thai officials that after they visited Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, they bought the statues from a market, believing the items were newly-made products.
The officials, however, were not convinced because the relics looked very old. So, the couple have been detained and the statues sent to the Fine Arts Department for examination. (source)
Cambodia has asked the United States government for help in recovering a thousand-year-old statue of a mythic warrior that sits in limbo at Sotheby’s in New York and that some experts believe was looted amid the convulsions of the Vietnam War and the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge.
The statue, a sandstone masterwork with a catalog estimate of $2 million to $3 million, was pulled from auction at the last minute last March after the Cambodian government complained it had been “illegally removed” from the country.
The Department of Homeland Security has opened an investigation, but Cambodian officials say they have held off asking for the piece to be seized while they negotiate with Sotheby’s for a private purchase. The auction house says that the seller is a “noble European lady” who acquired it in 1975. Although it was severed from its feet and pedestal, which were left behind at a remote Cambodian archaeological site, Sotheby’s says there is no proof that it was taken illegally. Read more.