A joint archaeology project spanning over a period of two years resulted in the discovery of the skeletal remains of 42 humans dated to 500 BC in Banteay Meanchey province, officials said Wednesday.
“We found 42 remains of humans born in prehistory and most of them were high-ranking officials during that time,” director of archaeology and prehistory at the Culture Ministry Ham Kimson said by telephone Wednesday.
He said some of them were buried individually, while others were buried together in 10 locations.
The graves were discovered in 2002 when villagers were building a World Food Program road, said Prak Sonnara, deputy general director of cultural heritage for the Culture Ministry.
“[The villagers] found the ancient graves and later on went to dig them up,” he said. “It was anarchy as the villagers went to steal the belongings of the ancient remains until the ministry went to re-educate the villagers to stop the digging.”
The Ministry of Culture worked in tandem with the International Research Center for Japanese Studies excavating graves in Preah Natr Preah district near Rohal commune’s Snay village.
“The bones were brought to a university in Japan for carbon-dating,” Ham Kimson said. They were then returned to Cambodia.
“All the remains are being kept in Siem Reap province as we have a small laboratory to test some of the remains,” he said.
International Research Center for Japanese Studies spokesman Yoshinori Yasuda said Wednesday that he and several of his colleagues rotated during the two years of research and excavation to help document Cambodia’s cultural heritage.
Prak Sonnara said that while the bones were excavated, they were kept in a stupa at the nearest village.
“Now we are studying the possibility of building a stupa under a banyan tree at the site of the ancient graves for the villagers to pay their respects,” he added.