Towering 12th-Century Statue Discovered in Angkor Thom

Archaeologists in Cambodia just uncovered a major find in Angkor Thom, the capital of the Khmer empire between the 9th and 15th centuries: a towering statue that may have once guarded an ancient hospital.

According to The Cambodia Daily and Archaeology, the sandstone statue was uncovered on the second day of a recent excavation in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Angkor, which is also home to the famous temple of Angkor Wat.

Found just 16 inches underground, the guard statue likely stood at the entrance to a hospital built by King Jayavarman VII in the 12th century. It is missing parts of its legs and its feet, so it originally would have been just under 7 feet tall. Even incomplete, the statue weighs more than 440 pounds.

An archaeologist dusts off the head from a 12th-century Cambodian statue.

King Jayavarman VII built 102 hospitals across his territory, four of which were around the perimeter of Angkor Thom. Though they were discovered by French archaeologists a century ago, excavations of the Angkor Thom hospitals have only recently begun. Largely built with wood, everything of the hospitals but the stone chapels has completely disappeared, leaving only artifacts of hardier materials like stone and ceramics.

Angkor's hundreds of monuments and massive temples make it a huge tourist destination, but it's also a working archaeological site with plenty of understudied areas. This excavation is ongoing and may reveal more relics in the next few weeks. As of August 1, the researchers had already found parts of another statue. 

All images courtesy APSARA National Authority

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Drought Reveals Ancient Sites in Scotland That Can Only Be Spotted From the Air
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Typically rainy Scotland is in the middle of an unusually dry summer—and local archaeologists are taking advantage of it. As the BBC reports, the drought has revealed ancient sites, including Roman camps and Iron Age graves, that have been hidden by farm soil for years.

Historic Environment Scotland has been conducting aerial surveys of the country's landscape since the 1930s, but it's in seasons like this, when the crops recede during dry weather, that the buried remains of ancient structures are easiest to spot. Conditions this summer have been the best since 1976 for documenting archaeological sites from the sky.

Aerial view of field.
Historic Environment Scotland

The crescent-shaped crop mark in the photo above indicates a souterrain, or underground passageway, that was built in the Scottish Borders during the Iron Age. The surveyors also found remains of a Roman temporary camp, marked by straight lines in the landscape, built in modern-day Lyne—an area south of Edinburgh already known to have housed a complex of Roman camps and forts.

Aerial view of field.
Historic Environment Scotland

In the image below you'll see four small ditches—three circles and one square—that were likely used as burial sites during the Iron Age. When crops are planted over an ancient ditch, they have more water and nutrients to feed on, which helps them grow taller and greener. Such crops are especially visible during a drought when the surrounding vegetation is sparse and brown.

Aerial view of field.
Historic Environment Scotland

Historic Environment Scotland has a team of aerial surveyors trained to spot the clues: To date, they've discovered more than 9000 archaeological sites from the air. HSE plans to continue scoping out new areas of interest as long as the dry spell lasts.

It's not just in Scotland that long-hidden settlements are coming to light: similar aerial surveys in Wales are finding them too.

[h/t BBC]

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An Ancient Sarcophagus Was Found in Egypt—And It's Never Been Opened
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In what could be the plot of the next summer blockbuster, a sealed sarcophagus has been found 16 feet underground in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, Science Alert reports. It’s still unknown who or what might be lying inside the nondescript black granite casket, but what’s clear is that it hasn’t been opened since it was closed more than 2000 years ago.

Ayman Ashmawy, head of the government’s Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector, observed “a layer of mortar between the lid and the body of the sarcophagus,” indicating it hadn't been opened, according to a Ministry of Antiquities Facebook post. Considering that many ancient tombs in Egypt have been looted over the years, an untouched sarcophagus is quite a rare find.

The sarcophagus was discovered when a site in the Sidi Gaber district, dating back to the Ptolemaic Dynasty (305-30 BCE), was inspected before construction of a building began. The casket is 104.3 inches long and 65 inches wide, making it the largest of its kind ever discovered in Alexandria. In addition, an alabaster statue of a man’s head was found in the same tomb, and some have speculated that it might depict whoever is sealed inside the sarcophagus. Live Science suggested that archaeologists may opt to inspect its contents using X-rays or computed tomography scans to prevent damage to the artifact.

Although it remains a mystery for now, Twitter has a few theories about who might be lying inside:

[h/t Science Alert]

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