Archaeologists in Cambodia just uncovered a major find in Angkor Thom, the capital of the Khmer empire between the 9th and 15th centuries: a towering statue that may have once guarded an ancient hospital.
According to The Cambodia Daily and Archaeology, the sandstone statue was uncovered on the second day of a recent excavation in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Angkor, which is also home to the famous temple of Angkor Wat.
Found just 16 inches underground, the guard statue likely stood at the entrance to a hospital built by King Jayavarman VII in the 12th century. It is missing parts of its legs and its feet, so it originally would have been just under 7 feet tall. Even incomplete, the statue weighs more than 440 pounds.
King Jayavarman VII built 102 hospitals across his territory, four of which were around the perimeter of Angkor Thom. Though they were discovered by French archaeologists a century ago, excavations of the Angkor Thom hospitals have only recently begun. Largely built with wood, everything of the hospitals but the stone chapels has completely disappeared, leaving only artifacts of hardier materials like stone and ceramics.
Angkor's hundreds of monuments and massive temples make it a huge tourist destination, but it's also a working archaeological site with plenty of understudied areas. This excavation is ongoing and may reveal more relics in the next few weeks. As of August 1, the researchers had already found parts of another statue.
All images courtesy APSARA National Authority