While breaking ground to rebuild a spirit house, construction workers in Svay Rieng province on Friday made an unexpected find: A statue well over a thousand years old, which locals believe had been buried for safe-keeping during the Pol Pot regime, officials said yesterday.
Keo Saran, a Bavet commune councilor, said Tuesday that workers found the ancient figurine–a half-meter-high statue that resembles the Hindu deity Shiva–while working on rebuilding a village spirit house. The statue, which was found packed in the soil, appeared in near-flawless condition, Mr Saran said.
“We found the statue with the pedestal and it looks like the one that went missing,” he said, noting that he remembered such a figurine from his youth.
According to Mr Saran, villagers used to refer to the statue as Yeay [Grandmother] Daun and would pray to it for rain.
“Since I am older, I have seen it before,” he said, adding that the statue was never seen after the end of the Pol Pot regime and that he believed someone had buried it to prevent the Khmer Rogue from stealing or destroying it.
“We are keeping the statue in the district police office for security, but we may take her back to her old place as the older villagers wish,” he said.
Hab Touch, director of the museum department at the Ministry of Culture, said yesterday that while he had not yet seen the sculpture in person, based on what he saw in newspaper photos printed yesterday, it may be from the 7th or 8th century.
“It looks like a Shiva and it seems like it was not completed,” said Mr Touch. “This artifact may have predated the Angkor empire from about the 7th of 8th century,” he said.
Nevertheless, before a ministry official goes to see the artifact and verify its authenticity, he could not say for sure how old it is or what its origins could be, Mr Touch said.
“We’re sending our officers to the field now,” he added.