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Angkor turtle shell held secret treasure

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The turtle sculpture discovered on May 6 housed artefacts including a crystal dragon and a trident. Apsara National Authority

Angkor turtle shell held secret treasure

Archaeologist Chea Socheat is seeking help from international experts to identify artefacts found inside the shell of a turtle sculpture which was recently unearthed at an excavation site at Kandal Srah Srang temple in the Angkor region of Siem Reap.

The turtle sculpture was discovered on May 6 and archaeologists found a white crystal dragon and a trident hidden in a rectangular compartment located in the turtle’s shell.

The Apsara National Authority (ANA) said that on May 8, its excavation team found another smaller turtle sculpture.

Both turtles were kept in place at the excavation site to avoid any damage to their original shape. The second turtle sculpture has not been opened.

Socheat, the project director and research leader of the excavation told The Post on Sunday that some of the artefacts found in the turtle sculpture are now being preserved at the Preah Norodom Sihanouk Angkor Museum in Siem Reap.

“We opened the turtle shell and found water and solid mud in it. Until we cleaned everything out of there, we only saw mud and dirt.

“We did not attempt to dig more out of it as we were afraid of damaging the original shape. The hole in the turtle where the artefacts were found is 10cm wide and 5cm deep.”

He said the turtle had dirty spots on it, which experts suspected might be grain or a substance that had melted to the sculpture.

Socheat said: “We need researchers who are skilful in this area of expertise and we have contacted Australian experts, but none have arrived yet.

“Due to the Covid-19 situation, we may send some parts of the sculpture to other countries for experiments. If there are any grains or ornaments, we will know after experiments have been conducted,” he said.

ANA spokesman Long Kosal told The Post on Monday that the discovery offers new evidence about Cambodia’s history.

“We are so happy we found these antiquities. They will help us understand the history, purpose and arrangement of the Kandal Srah Srang temple. This discovery is beneficial for its archaeological and scientific data,” he said.

The archaeological team also discovered a wooden structure on the temple’s terrace.

Socheat said in the future, archaeologists will construct a roof over the excavation site to protect the sculptures from heat and flooding.

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