The Preah Khan temple complex situated at the northern edge of the Angkor Archaeological Park is one of the most significant buildings erected during the ancient Khmer empire. Dedicated by the great king Jayavarman VII to his father in 1191, Preah Khan serves today as an outstanding example of a large linear temple complex in a dense jungle setting. Rectangular in shape and occupying 138 acres, Preah Khan’s boundaries are defined by a protective moat and fortified walls adorned by monumental carved stone garudas—eagle-like divine beings. The temple complex includes entryways, towers, ceremonial spaces, courtyards, shrines, and a variety of connecting corridors. Additional special features of Preah Khan include its two-story pavilion, the once-bronze-plated sanctum sanctorum, and its Hall of Dancers.
Conservation following a time of war
World Monuments Fund’s goal in Cambodia from the time of its first mission to Angkor in 1989 has been to devise appropriate techniques for conserving and presenting its monumental remains while simultaneously helping train a new generation of professionals and skilled workers. Detailed planning and conservation began at Preah Khan in 1991, marking the first activity of its type since the country’s devastating civil war. WMF’s work has encouraged the training of young Khmer architects, engineers, and archaeologists, and employment of a local work force has been a hallmark of WMF’s efforts.
Angkor Archaeological Park is one of the most culturally significant sites in Cambodia. It represents a fascinating period in early Khmer culture and it is a powerful symbol of the country’s heritage. Abandoned hundreds of years ago, the temple complexes were swallowed by the jungle. At the end of the nineteenth century, French archaeologists, art historians, and architects thoroughly documented the fascinating buildings they found hidden mysteriously in the overgrown vegetation. Since the fall of the Khmer Rouge, Angkor has been a great focal point of the rebuilding efforts in Cambodia. WMF and many international teams have worked closely with Cambodian professionals and the APSARA Authority to document, conserve, and protect these astonishingly beautiful buildings. Long-term stewardship continues to be the greatest concern, and WMF’s work at Preah Khan assures that attention is being paid to develop the skills and local workforce needed to care for these structures long into the future.