Officials from the APSARA National Authority (ANA) are working to remove thousands of ancient stone blocks that have fallen into ponds on the east of the Bayon temple. The stones will be used to restore the ponds, with the work expected to be completed within the next few months.

Tim Thida from the ANA’s Department of Conservation of Monuments and Preventive Archaeology said the blocks will be carefully removed, catalogued and stored appropriately. When the work is complete, the two ponds will be restored to the original architectural form of the temple.

“Part of the stone pile of this ancient temple was collected in its third compound and first gallery by a French curator between 1919 and 1930,” she explained.

She added that 50 per cent of the stone blocks that fell into the ponds were from roof galleries, with several identified as parts of beams, pillars and platforms, often with decorative carvings. The condition of the stones is predominantly good.

“First, the team moved the pile of stones to a space in front of the temple. Once they were clearly identified by types – such as roof stone or pillars – they are placed on the north side of the Bayon temple. So far, the working team moved about 4,000 stone blocks to the north of the temple,” she said.

ANA spokesman Long Kosal said the collection, preservation, maintenance of temples, restoration and order in the temple area, which is a national and world heritage property, is an important issue, and one that the ANA remains focused on.

“ANA officials in all fields work diligently to maintain, clean, prepare and restore the stonework in the Angkor Archaeological Park, as it is very important to protect and enhance them for the value they add to tourism,”” he added.

The ANA estimate that around 20,000 ancient stones need to be removed from the ponds. The work began in early 2023, and is scheduled to be completed in August or September.