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Bulldozers Destroy Priceless Archaeological Site in Cambodia

By: Kent Davis Posted: September-07-2010 in
Example of a circular earthwork in Memot, similar to the Samrong site destroyed.
Kent Davis

A 2500 year old archaeological site was unexpectedly destroyed in Cambodia last week. An archaeologist who rushed to the scene was shocked to discover heavy equipment still leveling the land, apparently to create temporary housing for a nearby company.

Memot, Cambodia — The rural Memot area in southeastern Cambodia has proven itself as one of the richest sources of information about the country’s pre-historic development. Ancestors of the primitive people who once lived there later became part of the Khmer Empire. The Khmer, one of the world’s most advanced artistic civilizations, grew to rule most of Southeast Asia only 1500 years after the Memot villages formed.

On Tuesday, September 2, a colleague in the Memot area placed an urgent call to archaeologist Heng Sophady to report the destruction of an ancient village site. Mr Heng rushed to the site, located in Samrong Village and called the Samrong Circular Earthwork.

Work in the Memot area began in 1959 with French archaeologist Louis Malleret, who described a series of 17 circular earthworks. These mounds represented the sites of early villages.

The first local excavation was begun in 1962 by Bernard Philippe Groslier who coined the name “Mimotien” for the previously unknown civilization. Now 36 massive prehistoric villages have been discovered in Cambodia. Radiocarbon dating and fragments of glass beads found at one site indicate an original settlement date close to 1000 BC.

Irreplaceable History Destroyed for Temporary Housing?
As Mr Heng reports, “After, receiving this frightening information, I immediately informed top people in the Ministry of Culture, I phoned the Heritage police and the head of Culture and Fine Arts for Memot District, asking them for intervention to stop the activity. Unfortunately, the damage happened so fast that there was no time for authorities to react.

“Today, I went to Memot very early in the morning… to check what happened there. I arrived at the site around 1PM. I was completely shocked when I saw the site completely destroyed.

“All rubber trees were cut down, the ground was smooth including the wall of the earthwork, the moat filled full by the soil from the earthen wall. I can’t do anything at that time, besides looking and taking pictures of the bulldozer and excavator moving and excavating the earthen wall of the site.

“The site is completely destroyed. [There is] no earthwork anymore in that place.”

When Mr Heng asked workers what was happening he was told that the Memot Rubber Plantation was cutting rubber trees and smoothing ground to build a new village for their workers.

The Memot Rubber company website shows a variety of enterprises in addition to the rubber operations including a biogas project, a “Five Star resort” project identified as “Four Points By Sheraton Angkor” and the “TTY Resort” on Koh Kôn Island near Sihanoukville.

It is unclear at this time who ordered the clearing to take place. Mr Heng confirmed that the Ministry of Culture was not informed about their development plans in the Samrong area. He has submitted a full report of the damage directly to the Minister in preparation for a meeting next week.

“This is really a big catastrophe for protection and conservation of archaeological sites in Cambodia ” said Mr Heng, who pleaded for help from others interested in preserving Cambodia’s precious heritage assets.

“Otherwise,” Mr Heng grimly concluded “many other sites will be destroyed in the future.”

Source: Angkor Wat Apsara & Devata: Khmer Women in Divine Context

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@marklatham: You expressed

You expressed all the things that i would have come up with on that topic.
Shortsightedness and selfishness keeps this country where it is now.

Ancient burial sites could have been protected, but now they are looted and destroyed, no more useful for any archeological research. Mostly the northwestern part of the country was/is affected, but sites like the ancient village in Memot show us, that the whole country could benefit from tourism and tourist sites this country definitely lacks.
Angkor Wat and a small beach town are hardly enough to keep travelers in Cambodia for more than a few days, on their way to/from Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.

Pointing to the lack of funds to renovate the National Museum in PP and then carting the artifacts to the private Angkor Museum doesn't help this. Either a 'Kingdom of Wonder' campaign that never made it to international viewers as the funds for screening on CNN etc. were not available [it screened only a few times in the last years...]. Now it's shown on CTN to please the local patriotism.
Just look to our neighbours in Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand on how to do it right...


Ill stick with my description

Ill stick with my description of the locals abaddie old boy but I will also add shortsighted.
For the cost of a couple of lexies they could build a small museum with what artefacts they have but also models of the ancient villages.
And a map with their locations and descriptions of architects ideas of their history.
With a fraction of the timber that is smuggled to vietnam each month they could build walkways over the mounds.
More recent history could also feature.
The US invasion of this fishook region of cambodia was supposed to shorten the war by destroying vietnamese sanctuaries.
But the invasion and particularly the destruction of snoul caused huge demonstrations in the states that resulted in the burning of dozens of ROTC buildings on campuses and the shootings of four students at kent state.
King sihanouk had spoken at kent state uni a few years previously.
The history of the rubber planations could also feature.
Many people travel this road to and from laos and there is not much to see.
Cambodia needs to work much harder to satisfy tourists dont they?
Or am I being stupid?


Most sites have been looted

Most sites have been looted already. In Thailand, just across the boarder, they are preserved for tourism ... The artifacts can be bought at Russian market ... the rape goes on ... in all sectors ...


How stupid are the cambodians

How stupid are the cambodians for not encouraging tourists to visit these sites?
I had never heard of these ancient earthworks-anyone else heard of them?
There was an article in one of the local magazines a while ago about the japanese airbase in kompong cham province,with some photos of bits of old equipment.
Anyone know of this?


How stupid are some barang

How stupid are some barang for wanting Cambodians to create tourist sites at archeological dig sites?
If you look at pictures of one of the Memot excavation sites (pre-dozed), its not much to see. And do you really want a bunch of tourists around the place that is so old and fragile?
How many fragile, archeological dig sites and locations do you know of that encourage tourism?

Doesn't really matter now that it is all rubble but think twice before calling Cambodians stupid...when you point your finger, you've got three pointed back at you.


why do you think I used the "

why do you think I used the " " . Of course I don't


Depressing. I'd like to hear

Depressing. I'd like to hear what the outcome of any "investigation" into who, if anyone, ordered the clearing to occur.


"investigation" Do you

"investigation" Do you honestly think there will be an "investigation" ?

Someone slipped someone else few bucks and the job was done.

They can not see the Value of such historic locations unless you can build a Car park and charge tourists to come in.

Heads should roll for this but we all know nothing will be done.


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