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The Restoration of Garuda 38 at Preah Khan, Angkor, Cambodia

In August 2014 the WMF team in Siem Reap, Cambodia, brought to completion the restoration of garuda 38. The garudas are sandstone sculptures constructed into the fourth enclosure wall of the Preah Khan temple complex in the Angkor Archaeological Park.

Some of the blocks of this garuda had fallen and were buried in the sand, while those that were still standing were shifted from their original positions due to natural causes and the presence of both vegetation roots and a termite mound. A large portion of the laterite wall near the sculpture had completely collapsed while surrounding portions were leaning out of plumb. After the WMF team carried out its study and documentation, it was decided that, in order to guarantee a long-term effect of the conservation work, it would be necessary to intervene on the wall as well and to partially reconstruct it. This was the first time the team had carried out this kind of work.

The restoration of this garuda began in May 2013. The whole sculpture was dismantled and its blocks were cleaned, repaired if necessary, and documented. The termite mound and vegetation roots were removed. The wall was dismantled in the area abutting the garuda until sound laterite conditions were reached. Termites were found to be infesting decayed portions of the wall, so these areas were replaced with new material. The garuda blocks were then set back to their original positions. Then an excavation in the surroundings allowed for retrieval of sandstone blocks that had collapsed. The wall was reassembled using as many original laterite units as possible, while those beyond repair were replaced with new units. Their surface was tooled as to imitate the original ones; imperfections and irregularities were respected as well.

The work, which was designed, carried out, and coordinated by WMF's Cambodian professionals and craftsmen, was very successful and will be kept in good condition by regular maintenance.