British 'Indiana Jones' finds missing legs of 900-year-old Buddhist statue
Saturday 07 November 2009
It sounds like the plot of an Indiana Jones movie: an archaeology professor with little more to go on than a yellowing photograph discovers part of a 900-year-old statue deep in the Cambodian jungle, rewriting history in the process.
Dr Peter Sharrock, a senior teaching fellow in the art and archaeology of Southeast Asia at London's School of Oriental and African Studies, was at a conference in Cambodia in July when he decided to spend a day searching the forest around the ruins of Angkor.
His aim was to locate the missing giant legs of an eight-headed, three-metre high sandstone statue of Hevajra, the war-like, tantric Buddhist deity. The statue's intricately carved bust was excavated and salvaged in 1925 by French archaeologists, who sold it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where it has been on display ever since. The rest of the statue had not been found – until now.
Armed only with photos of the excavations taken by the French 84 years ago, Dr Sharrock and his friend David Green trekked into the forest outside one of the ancient city's gates "where no tourist goes". He cannot reveal the exact location of the site due to fears of looting.
"There was no road, only a sort of animal track into the forest," he said. "It was pretty unpleasant. There were snakes all over the place, and in the back of my mind was the knowledge that the Khmer Rouge had planted land mines all over Angkor.
"We went on and on, and were about to give up, when finally I spotted something through the trees. We strode through the creepers and thorns, and I realised that I'd seen the carved square corner of the statue's pedestal. And lo and behold, there were the legs lying beside it."
Many parts of the 12th-century statue – including all 16 of its arms and one of its heads – are still missing, but Cambodia's government has now pledged to excavate the site.
Hevajra would have been venerated during the reign of Jayavarman VII, emperor of the Khmers at the height of their power, but it is likely the statue was broken up and dumped outside the city walls during a revival of Hinduism in the 14th century. This theory undermines the view that the Khmers followed a compassionate Buddhist philosophy. "It's something of a tectonic shift in archaeology", Dr Sharrock said.
New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site on Friday
Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy
New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain
- 1 Canadian actor punched in face after 'Islamophobia' experiment goes wrong in wake of Ottawa shooting
- 2 Topshop at centre of row over body image as 'shocking' skinny mannequin photo goes viral
- 3 Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson criticised for beer tweet
- 4 Woman blinded as a child can see again after hitting her head on a coffee table
- 5 The bubble bursts for Sodastream
'Nasa Confirms Six Days of Darkness in December': No, they don't - it's a hoax
Woman blinded as a child can see again after hitting her head on a coffee table
Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson criticised for beer tweet
The bubble bursts for Sodastream
Russian politician says Apple CEO Tim Cook should be 'banned' from country after coming out as gay
Pope Francis declares evolution and Big Bang theory are real and God is not 'a magician with a magic wand'
Huge surge in Ukip support after EU funding row, according to new poll
Ukip ‘exploiting grooming scandal’ to secure party’s first police chief
Nigel Farage: 'There’s nothing wrong with white people blacking up'
Maureen Lipman says 'she can't vote Labour while Ed Miliband is leader'
Muslims, immigration and teenage pregnancy: British people are ignorant about almost everything
£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...
£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...
£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...
£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...