Towering 12th-Century Statue Discovered in Angkor Thom

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

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Archaeologists Discover the Jousting Yard Where Henry VIII Had His Historic Accident

National Trust, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
National Trust, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Henry VIII may have never earned his reputation as an ill-mannered tyrant if it weren't for injuries he sustained at age 44. Now, as Live Science reports, archaeologists have uncovered the infamous jousting yard where that history-changing accident took place.

Prior to the beheading of Anne Boleyn—his second of six wives—King Henry VIII was regarded as a kind, gregarious leader by those who knew him. The point where descriptions of him changed their tone coincided with a fall he took on January 24, 1536.

While jousting at Greenwich Palace, Henry was tossed from his armored horse and further injured when his steed fell on top of him. The incident caused him to lose consciousness for two hours and nearly cost him his life.

Though it was never diagnosed, some experts believe Henry VIII sustained a brain injury that day that altered his personality. From that point on, he was characterized as irritable and cruel. He was in constant pain from migraines and an ulcerated leg, which could also explain the mood shift. The (sometimes violent) dissolution of most of his marriages occurred post-accident.

Ruins of the jousting yard, or tiltyard, where that fateful incident took place are located 5.5 feet beneath the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site, the former site of Greenwich Palace. After falling into disrepair, the palace was demolished by Charles II, and the exact location of the tiltyard was forgotten. A team of archaeologists led by Simon Withers of the University of Greenwich used ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to locate the remnants buried beneath the ground earlier this year.

The giveaways were the footprints of two octagonal towers. The archaeologists say these were likely the foundations of the bleacher-like viewing stands where spectators watched jousting matches. That would place the historic tiltyard about 330 feet east of where it was originally thought to be situated.

The radar scans provided a peek at what lies beneath the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site, but to learn more, the archaeologists will need to get their hands dirty. Their next step will be digging up the site to get a better look at the ruins.

[h/t Live Science]