The two Buddhist towers: multidisciplinary evaluation of Buddhist transition at the Khmer regional centre of Preah Khan of Kompong Svay (11th to 16th c. CE)
Mitch Hendrickson (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Cristina Castillo (UCL, Institute of Archaeology)
Julia Estève (Mahidol University)
Christian Fischer (UCLA, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology)
Paper short abstract:
Investigations at Preah Khan of Kompong Svay provide unique insight into the material transition between Mahāyāna to Theravāda Buddhism. Preliminary results show evidence of ritual activities, patterns of material consumption and establish new chronological frameworks at this important Angkorian site.
Paper long abstract:
The transition from Mahāyāna to Theravāda Buddhism represents a major event in Cambodian history yet we currently lack any direct evidence of when and why it took place in the late Angkorian period (12th to 15th centuries CE). Preah Khan of Kompong Svay (Preah Khan), located 100km east of Angkor, remains the only known site favouring Buddhist over Brahmanical ideals and has direct evidence of religious change via construction of the two distinct towers of Preah Thkol (Mahāyāna) and Preah Chatumukh (Theravāda). This paper will discuss the results of the first field campaign including the identification of ritual activity and occupation change through ceramics and botanical remains within the central temple complex, construction and dating of the foundation base for the standing four-sided Buddha tower of Preah Chatumukh, and detailed compositional and spectrographic study of the sandstone materials used within Preah Khan to detect shifting patterns of procurement. In combination with epigraphic evidence discovered at the site and surrounding areas, the Two Buddhist Towers project provides the first comprehensive investigation into the change of Buddhist material culture within final centuries of the Khmer Empire.
Archaeologies of religion: material approaches to the study of belief systems in Southeast Asia