THE VIRTUAL MUSEUM OF KHMER ART
ARCHAEOLOGY OF FUNAN

 

 

   

 

At about 1930 an aerial photographer, Pierre Paris, identified an enormous network of canals in Oc Eo an archaeological site in the lower Mekong River Delta in Viet Nam. Here Louis Maleret, a French archaeologist, excavated in 1940 and he found public buildings, a central place and evidence of a coastal trading port. He discovered rectangular moats (22 m wide) and ramparts around the town of Oc Eo measures 2 miles x 1 mile. His work (Malleret 1959, 1960, 1962) is the only monograph for decades. Similar constructions of the Oc Eo type were found in Angkor Borei in Cambodia near the Mekong. Angkor Borei is, for the most part, a moated settlement, surrounded by a wall that is approximately 3.7 miles long. The wall is composed of a brick foundation with packed earth over the top of the bricks. In 1996 the University of Hawai started the “Lower Mekong Archaeological Project (LOMAP)” to undertake systematic field researches in Vietnam. Meanwhile especially Vietnamese archaeologists found dozens of “Oc Eo places” in the lower Mekong region. The most we know about early period archaeology in the region comes from the Vietnamese side of the Mekong delta. Nearly all we know about the early Funan culture derives from Chinese accounts. Some years ago, in 2003, James C. M. Khoo published the first fundamental monograph about art and archaeology in Funan. Since 1994 there are field researches in Vietnam by the German "Deutsches Archäologisches Institut".

The new excavations show that there are more differences than expected to the early “Pre-Khmer style”, normally named Phnom Da style. Khoo suggests an independent Funan style. Comparing the known statues of Phnom Da with those found in Funan published in his monograph and with the exhibits shown here we tend to agree. As the recalibrated radiocarbon dates (C14) show it is rather certain that many the sculptures of the Funan style have to be dated some time before the Phnom Da A style.

Vishnu (Phnom Da)
(from Wintermeier Collection)

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