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Without Iron, No Angkor Wat, Researcher Says

  • VOA Khmer

Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat.

His work has discovered iron smelters that pre-date the Angkorian empire, and he encouraged Cambodian-Americans to get involved in more research in the era.

WASHINGTON DC - Cambodian archeological researcher Thuy Chanthourn gave a rare presentation to an audience in Virginia last month to describe the crucial role of the Iron Age in Cambodia’s history.

His work has discovered iron smelters that pre-date the Angkorian empire, and he encouraged Cambodian-Americans to get involved in more research in the era.

Iron played a crucial role in the expansion of the Khmer empire, said Thuy Chanthourn, who works at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, and was the material behind the chisels and saws used to construct the famed temples of Angkor Wat.

“It was also used to make all kinds of weapons to defend the nation and fight the enemy,” Thuy Chanthourn told an audience of Cambodian-Americans in Annandale, Va., in July. The metal was crucial in the expansion of the Khmer empire, which spread across much of Southeast Asia and reigned from the 9th to the 15th centuries, he said.

Thuy Chanthourn’s lecture was based on his 2010 discovery of ancient iron slag mounds buried in the northern jungles of Kampong Thom and Preah Vihear provinces, as the government built a road through the area.

“With all this evidence, we can conclude that if there were no big iron industry, Cambodians would never have been able to build Angkor Wat temple or its empire,” he said.


As part of a lecture tour, Thuy Chanthourn toured several states and stopped in Seattle, Wash., to mark the 1,200th anniversary of the Angkorian Empire. In Virginia, he told his audience that Cambodia needs more researchers, “not just for me or any individual, but for the whole nation.” With Cambodia at peace, he said, “now this is the path we should go forward with. There should be no war. We have peace of mind and history.”
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