Archaeologists claim to have found the remnants of nearly 100 previously undiscovered ancient temples in the jungles of Cambodia.
The temples, which in many cases are just foundations, were unearthed in Kratie province’s historical Samphu Borak area of eastern Cambodia’s Kratie Province.
The team believe they date back to the 6th and 7th centuries, hundreds of years older than the country’s world-famous Angkor Wat temple complex which dates back to the 12th century.
Angkor Wat is a temple complex in Cambodia and one of the largest religious monuments in the world, on a site measuring 162.6 hectares.
Dating back to the sixth and seventh centuries, the newly discovered temples were found in the historical Samphu Borak area, along the Mekong River.
Samphu Borak was one of the most densely populated regions of the pre-Angkorian era of Cambodia.
Historically known as Chenla, the region had previously been known as the Kingdom of Funan and went on to become part of the Khmer Empire.
Thuy Chanthourn, deputy director of the Institute of Arts and Culture of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the remains of the temples had not been recorded in earlier studies, by either French or Cambodian archaeologists.
They were not mentioned in the definitive study and were not in the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts’ list of ancient temples.
Mr Chanthourn said: ‘I have found nearly 100 temples that have not been unearthed before. We will carry out further inspections and studies.’
Alison Carter from the Anthropology Dept at the University of Oregon, who is a director of P’teah Cambodia, researching ancient ruins, told Asia Wire: ‘I think when we hear ‘temple sites’ people think of Angkor Wat or Ta Prohm, but in fact many Angkorian and especially Pre-Angkorian temple sites were quite small.
‘Perhaps a single small tower that frequently isn’t standing any longer and so it’s not surprising that they would be so many unrecorded sites.’
Despite extensive efforts to find sites some ten years ago, smaller sites like those now uncovered are easily missed.
‘It’s great that Cambodian archaeologists are doing this work, because having a careful record of sites is an important first step for their protection and study.
‘Everyone focuses on the places in Cambodia where there is standing architecture but finding so many sites in other parts of the country demonstrates that other parts of Cambodia were occupied in the past and are important places.
‘Compared to the Angkorian period, we don’t know very much about the Pre-Angkorian period. Any new information like this helps us complete a more holistic picture of the past.’
The sandstone temples are believed to have been built by followers of the early Hindu religion of Brahmanism.
Mr Chanthourn’s team now plan to use GPS technology to carry out in-depth research into the temples and to record and preserve them in more detail.