Looters, Authorities Find Ancient Cemeteries

Cultural officials uncovered two sites that appear to be prehistoric burial grounds in Pursat pro­vince’s Bakan and Phnom Kra­vanh districts this week, said Uong Von, director of the Her­itage Depart­ment at the Ministry of Culture.

As usual, he said, officials ar­rived too late. A number of the graves in the three-hectare site at Bakan had already been dug up by looters.

Authorities still found numerous artifacts, including bracelets, anklets, vas­es, belts, animal bones and wea­pons such as swords and javelins, he said.

Similar items were found in digs at Phnom Snay village in Banteay Meanchey province in 2000, leading Uong Von to say the Bakan artifacts might date to the same period—around

250 BC. Ministry officials will study the site, which Uong Von called a “warrior cemetery,” and inventory their findings.

In the meantime, Pursat Gov­ernor Ung Samy is organizing po­lice and local authorities to prevent further looting, said Mao Sorphorn, director of Pursat’s Culture and Fine Arts Depart­ment. Local and military police will guard the Bakan site, said Pursat Deputy Police Chief Prach Rim.

No arrests have been made, though police last weekend de­tained three men described as antiques dealers, who they suspected of buying looted artifacts, said Prach Rim. The men were released for lack of evidence. The excavations at Phnom Snay were also hindered by looters.

The Bakan site was discovered when villagers reported the digging, said Uong Von. Villagers told him looters from Battam­bang and Banteay Meanchey had been digging at the site since October.

The Phnom Kravanh site was reported by farmers who found ceramic vases while plowing their fields, Uong Von said.

Mao Sorphorn said he was surprised by the discovery of the two sites. Little is known about the prehistoric period in Cambodia, and experts hope the discovery of such ancient sites will reveal more about how the region’s early inhabitants lived, and how their civilization first developed.

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