Apsara National Authority (ANA) officials are collecting and preparing fragments of the Deva balustrade of temple complex Angkor Thom’s Ta Kav or western gate found during an excavation before placing them back to their original positions.

While excavating on the north side of the Ta Kav gate’s causeway, archaeologists found fragments of the balustrade that had fallen into the moat hundreds of years ago, ANA said in a statement on June 17.

“All pieces must be registered, sketched and photographed before being taken out of the excavation pit to clean, restore and place in their original place,” the statement said.

Covering an area of 60m by 6m at a depth of 10cm, the first-stage excavation began in early May and is scheduled to be completed late next month, it added.

Tim Thida, an archaeologist of the Department of Conservation of Monuments and Preventive Archaeology at ANA, revealed that the excavation found eight Deva heads and fractions of arms, legs and other body parts.

She said six heads were kept at the Heritage Police Headquarters for safekeeping, another had been “split into two parts”, while another was too fragile to move to the designated restoration site and “waiting until the stones are solid”.

Thida stressed that the discovery of the sculpture fragments was great news for the restoration of the statues at Ta Kav gate’s causeway. She noted that excavations have found “about 30 per cent” of the Deva statues.

She said a second-stage excavation would go deeper and actually reach the natural soil layer, providing better insight into the structure of the causeway, allowing experts to better plan how to reinforce the raised path.