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A joint archaeological discovery – uncovering Cambodia’s heritage

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You may have heard about an impressive recent archaeological find near Angkor Wat: but did you know that Singapore and Cambodia have a strong working relationship in archaeology, and that researchers from both countries were involved in the find?

On 30 July, a remarkable archaeological discovery was made in Siem Reap province: an ancient guardian statue dating back to the late 12th century was uncovered from the soil in which it lay. Weighing in at an impressive 200 kg of sandstone, it is almost two meters in length. What’s more, as a near-complete statue with its head still intact, it is one of Cambodia’s most significant archaeological discoveries in years. Singapore congratulates Cambodia on the discovery of such a fine piece of Cambodia’s cultural and historical heritage. We take pride in the Singapore-funded archaeological training programme and joint excavation effort that unearthed the guardian statue: Singapore archaeologists from the Archaeological Field School (AFS) of Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute worked with Cambodia’s APSARA Authority and its advisor Dr Rethy Chhem to select the site at the ancient Tonle Sgout hospital, and conduct the excavation effort.

The AFS is an annual three-week long archaeological research and training programme held in Cambodia and Singapore, and is now in its fifth year of training Singaporean, Cambodian, and other Asian archaeologists. This year, the project’s goal was to investigate ancient hospital activities, structures, and homes in Southeast Asia. This ties in with AFS’s broader goal to emphasise just how deep our shared history of intra-Asian interactions is: the roots of ties between our peoples extend back over 2,000 years into the past.

Last week, the AFS, with the APSARA Authority, showed us that intra-ASEAN interactions such as those between Singapore and Cambodia continue to yield tangible and positive results today. This successful collaboration is not just in finding artefacts and understanding ancient Cambodia, but in training researchers and archaeologists from both our societies. It is an excellent example of the win-win partnerships and strong people-to-people relations between Singapore and Cambodia, which continue to strengthen and deepen every year.

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