Saturday, December 20, 2008

Angkor, Cambodia

Angkor, in northwestern Cambodia, is the site where Khmer kings established their capitals from the ninth to the twelfth century. Angkor was a highly developed civilization, as demonstrated by its temples, sculpture and bas-reliefs, as well as its elaborate irrigation system. Today, Angkor is an extensive archaeological site covering more than 400-square kilometers. More than 100 temples can be seen there. However, civil houses, including palaces, which were built with wood, no longer exist. Up to the twelfth century, kings were Hindu. At the end of this century, a Buddhist king built a number of temple complexes.

The archaeological site includes many treasures, the most beautiful of which is the Hindu temple of Angkor Wat, constructed during the first half of twelfth century. The last capital was Angkor Thom, a city of nine-square kilometers, in the middle of which was built the Bayon, around 1200. It underwent important changes until the end of the century. At this time, Angkor kings were the masters of the most important empire in Southeast Asia.

The power of the Khmer kings gradually decreased, and after the middle of fifteenth century, Angkor was just the center of a small kingdom until the end of sixteenth century.

Threats to the archaeological site of Angkor include looting, vandalism and natural forces. In 1860, French explorer Henri Mouhot encountered Angkor and drew the attention of the western world to the site. Soon after, there were several expeditions which occasionally removed sculptures from Angkor and other sites in Cambodia, and brought them back to Paris, along with many mouldings shown presently in Musée Guimet. From 1908 to 1970, the Conservation d'Angkor protected Angkor. During the genocide and years after, Angkor was inaccessible and the site suffered from neglect.



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