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The Structural Repair of the West Gopura IVThursday, September 2, 2010
WMF’s work at Preah Khan enters a new phase with the commencement of the conservation of the West Gopura tower. The ornamental lotus flower at the top of the Central Tower of the West Gopura IV, Central Tower, requires conservation, as a sandstone block weighing approximately 900kg (approximately 2,000 lbs.) sits precariously on eight to nine layers of unstable and damaged stone support blocks, which have moved and shifted out of place. This change has forced the metal clamps and repairs from an earlier restoration campaign, carried out by the École Française d'Extrême-Orient (EFEO), to pull out and fail, leaving the area in danger of collapse.
Before a conservation project at the temples can start, the team holds a ceremony to ask the spirits and gods to bless the work. The spirits are asked to leave their house for the duration of the project and to provide safety for the workers. Offerings to the spirits include a pig head, banana, cake, wine, a cigarette, candles, and incense sticks.
The oldest of the workers who acts as a so-called Achaa calls to the gods three times to come and collect the offerings and asks for their blessing. During the calling the other team members offer their respect by lighting incense sticks placed in a vase. The oldest worker then cuts parts of each offering and prepares a bowl for the spirits placed near the work site. The rest of the food is shared by the team members during lunch.
To hold a ceremony at the beginning of a construction work is a common custom in Cambodia. Depending on the size of the project offerings vary. For a small project, such as the repair work at the West Gopura tower at Preah Khan, two pig heads along with some bananas are sufficient. For larger projects a whole pig would be offered and a respected Achaa and monks would be called in.
The stabilization of the upper portion of the tower requires partial disassembly, repair of damaged stones, and reassembly with the use of stainless steel pins and clips. To support the heavy weight and allow the safe removal and lowering of stone blocks to the ground, a tower scaffold structure that bridges over the top of the Central Tower was designed. After completion of the work at the West Gopura IV, the scaffold structure will be used for the repair of the East Gopura IV at Preah Khan which has similar structural problems.
The restoration of the Central Tower of the West Gopura IV is expected to be completed by December 2010.
WMF continues its work to conserve Preah Khan’s famous garudas. Through a $25,000 gift to adopt a garuda, you enable its repair and preservation. After thorough documentation, each garuda will be dismantled, restored, and reassembled, and finally securely reinstalled along the temple’s outer wall.
PREAH KHAN TEMPLE
CHURNING OF THE SEA OF MILK GALLERY CONSERVATION PROJECT