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The Site of Angkor Borei and Phnom Da

Date of Submission: 27/03/2020
Criteria: (i)(ii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of the Kingdom of Cambodia to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Takeo Province
Coordinates: N1212053 E498767
Ref.: 6455

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Angkor Borei is an important center of one of the earliest complex polities in Southeast Asia. It was a major political centre and the foundation of Khmer civilization that began between 500 B.C. until the late 6th century. It located in Takeo province, about 102 kilometers south of Phnom Penh, the modern capital city of Cambodia.

Angkor Borei is one of the important archaeological sites in Cambodia. It was the capital of Funan and the early Khmer capital that developed and became a quasi-model for the later period city development that include the current World Heritage sites of Sambor Prei Kuk (Ishanapura) and Angkor (Yasodharapura). Angkor Borei is approximately 300 hectares in size with many brick structures. It is surrounded by a large brick and soil wall, lined by moats both inside and outside. A long canal connected this site with other Funan centres such as Phnom Bayong and with the Oc Eo region, in present day Vietnam. The site has revealed the oldest extant dated Khmer inscription and the earliest examples of architecture and sculpture that can be considered to be Khmer.  Moreover, the Angkor Borei area continued to be an important religious centre following the pre-history period including the burials at Komnou pagoda and Borei mountain.

Phnom Da is the name of the mount to the south of the town of Angkor Borei.  Currently, two temples still remain standing on this mount and several caves that have been found around its base. The principal temple, now known as Phnom Da temple, was built in the 11th century on foundations remaining from the Funan period. On the northeast slope of the mount is another temple named Asram Maha Rosei. It is a temple built of unusual material for Khmer construction. A very hard basalt stone has only been used in two temples in Cambodia, and it is one of a very few temples in Cambodia that has an internal “womb” (Garbhagṛha) where the priests (Pujari) go inside to make ceremonial actions.

Around the foot of the mount of Phnom Da, some five caves have been located – three on the north face, one on the east and one on the west.   Sculptures related to Vishnu were found in those caves, some of which are currently housed in the National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh.

From an art history perspective, Phnom Da was identified by art historian as the first Khmer art history style, defined as Phnom Da style with two different parts ; Phnom Da part A and Phnom Da part B. The main characteristic of this style is to integrate both Hindu and Buddhist sculpture, showing similarity with the Indian arts of Gupta and Post-Gupta period, and the style has a strong relationship with the Indo-Greek Mathura school.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Criterion (i): Phnom Da is an outstanding masterpiece of early Khmer architecture and art that were influence by Indian culture, but were distinctly transformed into the hallmark of the local culture. The majority of early examples of Khmer architecture such as Asram Moha Rosei, Phnom Da foundation temple and the artificial caves are to be found in the Angkor Borei region. Additionally, the Romlok and Koh pagodas reveal that the Angkor Borei region is deeply steeped in religious and symbolic values.

Criterion (ii): The architecture and arts of Phnom Da represent the redefining of Indian architecture into a distinctive early Khmer style. The main features of Phnom Da include the artificial caves, little niches with heads (Kudu), the temple that was built from basalt, and the presence of the womb (Garbhagrha). Moreover, the sculptures found at this site and around this area form basis of what has been identified as the early Khmer arts history style known as Phnom Da style. The development of the architecture and arts at Phnom Da become a role model that spread to another place, developing to become a persistent distinctive style in the post period Phnom Da shows the influence of India with a local derivation both in technique and the ideas that is represented on the monument and art of the main religious centre of Funan. A Vishnu statue with eight arms found at Phnom Da show this Vishnu holding weapon not typical such as an antelope skin and a flask that are the weapon of Shiva, the flame a weapon of Agni, and the Mace a weapon of Yama. Asram Moha Rosei was dedicated to the Hindu got Harihara, a representation of Vishnu and Shiva in combination. Moreover, Buddhism was also practiced at Angkor Borei. The combination of both Hindu gods and Buddhist icons shows that during that time Angkor Borei practiced religious and social harmony.

Criterion (iv): Angkor Borei, the Ancient capital of Funan, has unique architecture and town planning, influenced from India and became distinct as it developed. Its concept of making a town influenced later period such as Sambor Prei Kuk, Angkor, Long Vek and Oudong.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The authenticity of Angkor Borei and Phnom Da have been expresses OUV through some type remaining attributes such as; all the relevant historical, culture, social, traditional, religious, art, artifice, archaeological and ancient city complexes include moat city, hydraulic structure, monument and religious area both Hindu and Buddhist.  The ancient hydraulic structure such as canal and water tanks are still in use today and some of important and rebuilt have remained in situ. The Angkor Borei archaeological and cultural landscape continued to be used in several periods until present for human habitation, religious site, with idea and concepts of town planning serving as be a role models in following periods there by assisting to maintain and preserve the archaeological and cultural landscape until today.

Comparison with other similar properties

1. National

Han Chey Mountain (Cambodia: late 6th to late 7th century)
Han Chey mountain is an archaeological site on the banks of the Makong river and it is the collection of the Pre-Angkorian temples. One of those temple has a temple called Kuk Preah Theat located on the slope of Han Chey mountain has a very similar shape to Asram Moha Rosei and was built by using the same basalt stone, the only two temples so far found in Cambodia.

2. Sub-regional

Dieng (Indonesia: 7th century C.E.)
Dieng is the group of 7th century temples located in the central Java in Indonesia. The Dieng is home of Hindu temple that are among the oldest surviving religious stuctures and the earliest Hindu temples in Indonesia, whit temple that have very similar plans to Asram Moha Rosei. Both site is early site reveal influence from Indian architecture and arts.

3. Regional

Udayagiri (India: 5th C.E.)
Udayagiri is one of India’s most important archaeological sites, with some of the oldest surviving Hindu temples and iconography in India. This site has many artificial caves dedicated to Jainism and Hinduism. While, Udayagiri was not constructed on the same plan as Angkor Borei or Phnom Da, its many artificial caves are similar to Phnom Da and its sculpture is similar to those found in Angkor Borei religion.

Ajanta (India: 2nd to 5th century C.E.)
Ajanta is an important archaeological site in India that was included in the List of World Heritage sites in 1983. This site has many artificial caves dedicated to Buddha and shows the influence from Gupta period, as with those in Phnom Da. However, Ajanta caves and Phnom Da caves are got influence from Gupta.

The group of monuments at Mahabalipuram (India: 7th to 8th century C.E.)
The group of monument at Mahabalipuram is a collection of 7th - 8th century CE religious monuments in the coastal resort town of Mahabalipuram in India that is a world heritage site. The site has about forty monuments, in varying of the degrees of completion, categorized into five groups. Asram Moha Rosei have a similar plan to some of the temples in Mahabalipuram, and the cave temple and square shape, indicate that Cambodia was influenced from India in the ancient times, but then were later developed into local forms and styles.