RCAF soldiers uncovered 154 miniature Buddhas coated with gold, silver and brass late last week, while clearing a plot of land to grow crops in Stung Treng province, officials said Monday.
They stumbled upon the artifacts on March 10. They were buried in a plot owned by a relative of one of the soldiers in Stung Treng district, which had been overgrown with forest, officials said.
The artifacts—10 of which are plated with gold, 51 with silver and 93 with brass and which vary in height from about 10 cm to the size of a human thumbprint—are now being stored for safekeeping at the residence of Sam Sa Em, the director of Stung Treng’s cultural department, said Stung Treng provincial Deputy police Chief Chou Pi Choura.
“It is the second time we received Buddhist statues from local people in my province,” Sam Sa Em said Monday. In 1997, 15 artifacts were found in the area and given to retired King Norodom Sihanouk for display inside the Royal Palace.
Sam Sa Em said that his department could not validate the artifacts’ ages. Officials from the Ministry of Culture in Phnom Penh are scheduled to evaluate the artifacts next week.
“They could have been buried…
by laypersons to save them from destruction during the Pol Pot regime. They might also have been buried to prevent them from being seized by Thai colonists in the 1880s,” he said.
Uong Von, director of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Art’s Heritage Department, said Monday that the ministry often receives artifacts from people who discover them while clearing land to cultivate crops, adding that an unspecified cash reward is always given to those who do so.
Uong Von said he had not yet seen the newly discovered artifacts, but he intends to do so shortly. He said that after evaluation, the artifacts will be sent to the National Museum in Phnom Penh.