Sunday, August 22, 2010

More controversy?

The cover of yesterday's Cambodia Daily's Weekend magazine
Controversy over Angkor is nothing new. Scholars have been determined to expound their own theories on a variety of Angkorean topics through the ages. Now they will have something else to get their teeth into, as Kent Davis and his like-minded colleagues turn the focus onto the women that adorn the walls of Angkor Wat. Today in Istanbul at a conference on computer recognition, the results of a scientific study of the faces of 252 of the 1,796 devata carved onto the walls of Angkor Wat will be presented. The study, Clustering Face Carvings: Exploring the Devatas of Angkor Wat is part of a push by Kent Davis and others to find out more about the women and why so many of them feature at the temple, and whether they are more than just the decoration they appear. The facial features analyzed in the study by the University of Michigan will be eyes, nose, mouth and face outline but this is a just a start. Why are the women on the higher levels and central tower larger and more powerful than the devatas in other parts of Angkor Wat? To be frank, the questions are endless but Kent Davis is leading the way in asking those questions and his research is expected to generate and divide opinion between experts, many of who have merely dismissed the devata as adornments in this funerary temple of King Suryavarman II. Davis, who has already published three Angkor-related books, will eventually publish his theory in a book, Daughters of Angkor Wat. Articles on his work appeared in the weekend editions of the Cambodia Daily here and the Phnom Penh Post, as he turns the heat up on his research. Find out more at

Labels: ,


OpenID alisonincambodia said...

I suppose as someone getting their PhD in archaeology and focusing on the archaeology of Cambodia I would be one of those "experts" people are so eager to dismiss. However, I know Kent electronically and I think his work (and his passion for his work) is really exciting. Research should always create debate, because that is how you move the field forward. There is pretty good archaeological evidence that during the prehistoric period women held high status in some communities. By the Angkorian period, women seem to hold little economic or political power (as would be expressed in the written sources) but because so little archaeological work has been done we don't really have a good understanding of their role in day to day life. Asking these kinds of questions is really exciting and I hope it inspires more people (especially modern Cambodian women) to follow-up on this research. Thanks for sharing this Andy! I'll definitely be picking up a copy of Daughters of Angkor Wat when it's available.

August 22, 2010 at 9:19 PM  
Anonymous Kent Davis said...

Andy, I've spent five years working on my devata research. Michelle Vachon spent three weeks thoroughly researching her article before it was ready for print. But your blog is the *first* place I've seen that beautiful Cambodia Daily cover! Thanks for making my day!

I sincerely hope that my work raises global awareness of the brilliant contributions the Khmer race has made to art and culture. I believe that the women portrayed at Angkor Wat (and other Khmer temples) embody an extraordinary record of human life and civilization.

Since my first hour at the temple, I have marveled that it contains nearly 2,000 full body, near life-size human images created in a single generation nearly a thousand years ago.

Almost no one in the world knows that.

Almost no one in modern Cambodia thinks about that.

But there is nothing like this type of human image gallery ANYWHERE in the world.

The only exception is perhaps China's terracotta army...which EVERYONE has heard of because so many papers, magazines and documentaries have featured it.

But the Angkor Wat portraits? Unknown. Ignored. Unstudied.

It doesn't make sense. And THAT is merely considering them as "ancient human images".

Add in the fact that they are 100% women?

Obviously this immediately blows editorial and scholarly minds to the point that they can't see EITHER mind blowing story: The biggest ancient gallery of human images in the world OR a gallery of exclusively women. (-:

Rest assured. These women are ready to share their knowledge of the Khmer Empire with those willing to open their eyes.

With best regards,


“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

August 22, 2010 at 11:47 PM  
Blogger William said...

I've never got beyond the point of "..they laugh at you.." - sigh.....

August 23, 2010 at 9:51 AM  
Anonymous Indifferent said...

"Add in the fact that they are 100% women ... a gallery of exclusively women"

Er... yes, it's true that the depictions of women in Angkor Wat consist almost entirely -- 100% even -- of depictions of women. In Angkor Wat.

But let's hop off the logical merry-go-round for a moment. Can I ask for the record: How many images of individual men/male divinities there are at Angkor Wat vs. the number of women/female divinities...?

Anyway, it's hardly a mystery that there are a zillion carvings of women in Angkor Wat. Everyone who's ever been there, read a guidebook, or seen a TV doco knows it.

More importantly, why do the simple numbers mean so much to you? Since when does ubiquity equate to value or importance?

If the Louvre was buried by ash today, archaeologists in 1000 years time would dig up a big building with about 100,000 portraits of important-looking guys, and not very many women.

This year, 9 million visitors will march right past all those guys without even looking, on their way to see the Mona Lisa.

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

Will Julia Roberts play you in the Hollywood version?

August 24, 2010 at 6:47 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older