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World Heritage Convention

Decision 45 COM 8B.8
Koh Ker: Archaeological Site of Ancient Lingapura or Chok Gargyar (Cambodia)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Documents WHC/23/45.COM/8B and WHC/23/45.COM/INF.8B1,
  2. Inscribes Koh Ker: Archaeological Site of Ancient Lingapura or Chok Gargyar, Cambodia, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (ii) and (iv);
  3. Adopts the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

    Brief synthesis

    Koh Ker: Archaeological Site of Ancient Lingapura or Chok Gargyar was a capital of the Khmer Empire between 921 and 944 CE. Partially hidden in a dense broad-leaf forest between the Dangrek and Kulen mountain ranges on a gently sloping hill some eighty kilometres northeast of Angkor, the archaeological site comprises numerous temples and sanctuaries with associated sculptures, inscriptions, and wall paintings, archaeological remains and hydraulic structures.

    Established by King Jayavarman IV in 921 CE, Koh Ker was one of two rival capitals of the Khmer Empire that co-existed between 921 and 928 CE – the other being Angkor – and the sole capital until 944 CE, after which the Empire’s political centre moved back to Angkor. Constructed in a single phase over a twenty-three-year period, the sacred city was believed to be laid out on the basis of ancient Indian concepts of the universe. Koh Ker demonstrated markedly unconventional city planning and architectural features, which were primarily the result of the combination of King Jayavarman IV’s grand political ambition and the two outstanding innovations that helped to materialise this ambition: the artistic expressions of the Koh Ker Style, and the construction technology using very large monolithic stone blocks. Although short-lived as a capital and thus acting only as an interlude in Khmer history, these innovations had a profound and lasting influence on urban construction and artistic expression in the region.

    Criterion (ii): The archaeological site of Koh Ker exhibits in an exceptional way the interchange of human values that resulted in the Koh Ker Style, a sculptural expression featuring bold, expressive imagery and a dynamic sense of movement that resulted from the fusion of Indian religious and artistic symbolism with local design concepts and artistic craftsmanship. The Koh Ker Style, though formed within a short period of twenty-three years in the 10th century, had an enduring influence on the artistic expression of the subsequent period of the Khmer Empire and other Southeast Asian countries.

    Criterion (iv): The archaeological site of Koh Ker is a prototype of a new urban landscape featured by grand-scale buildings, thanks to the use of colossal monolithic stone blocks for construction and sculptures. It had inaugurated a centuries-long phase of stone temple construction across the Khmer Empire and became a source of inspiration for the great monuments of Angkor and Southeast Asia in later centuries.


    All attributes necessary to express the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, including the temples and sanctuaries, archaeological remains and hydraulic structures, are included within the property. The layout and built environment of the entire ancient capital are evident. Many looted sculptures have been repatriated. Threats to the attributes are under control.


    The link between the property's attributes and its Outstanding Universal Value is truthfully expressed, and the archaeological remains can be said to truthfully convey their meaning; there are no conjectural reconstructions. The absence of later modifications or reuse after its abandonment in the 15th century has left the property with a high level of authenticity in terms of its location and setting, forms and designs, and materials and substances, as demonstrated by the archaeological evidence. The geographical location of the ancient capital city, the layout of the original urban plan, and the archaeological remains of the temples, royal palace, hydraulic systems, sculptures, inscriptions, and wall painting are authentically preserved in situ. The property is the same size and is in almost the same condition as at the time of its documentation in the late 19th century.

    Protection and management requirements

    Koh Ker: Archaeological Site of Ancient Lingapura or Chok Gargyar is protected by the Law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage (1996). The Royal Decree on the Establishment of Koh Ker Temple Site, NS/RKT/0504/070, of 2004, as amended in 2020, defines the boundaries of the property, the buffer zone, and the satellite zone beyond the buffer zone.

    The National Authority for Preah Vihear (NAPV) is the dedicated governmental authority that oversees policy formulation and implementation for the protection and conservation of the property, and for combating illegal destruction, alteration, excavation, alienation or exportation of cultural objects at both Preah Vihear and Koh Ker. The NAPV technical teams, together with the active participation of the community, undertake activities for the conservation and promotion of the property according to a Comprehensive Cultural Management Plan. The International Coordinating Committee for Preah Vihear advises and monitors all NAPV activities. Heritage Impact Assessment mechanisms have been embedded in the current management system. Risk management for both the natural environment and the cultural heritage is carried out by staff with adequate equipment following established procedures. Specific long-term expectations include building up staff capacity.

  4. Recommends that the State Party give consideration to the following:
    1. Establishing the carrying capacity for each monument,
    2. Undertaking a full Heritage Impact Assessment for the proposed visitor centre complex, and for any other development projects and activities that are planned for implementation within or around the property,
    3. Developing an overall research strategy to guide the conduct of all future research in order to further improve the understanding of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property,
    4. Strengthening the capacity of the staff for the long-term protection, conservation, and management,
    5. Adjusting the monitoring system to take into account the factors affecting the property and for easy integration of its outcomes into the Periodic Reporting questionnaire.
Context of Decision