Conservation project channels thinking of Angkor’s original builders

World Monument Fund completes restoration of the eastern half of Phnom Bakheng temple.

The World Monuments Fund (WMF) is celebrating a milestone in its ongoing work at the Angkor archaeological park in Cambodia: the completion of a decade-long $4.8m conservation effort on the eastern side of Phnom Bakheng, one of the site’s oldest temples.

Constructed as a stepped pyramid atop a hilltop in the late ninth and early tenth centuries, it was the state temple of the first Khmer capital and is considered one of the world’s greatest architectural treasures. Angkor was the seat of the Khmer Empire from the ninth to the 15th century.

In recent decades a shift in the flow of water across Phnom Bakheng amid heavy tourist traffic had jeopardised its long-term viability, prompting the WMF to seek a solution. Devotional shrines erected on the various levels had become destabilised because of a gradual change in the pitch at the ground level of the various terraces, says Lisa Ackerman, the interim chief executive of the WMF.

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