Angkor ‘Jigsaw Puzzle’ Solved and Open to the Public

April 21, 2011 by | Filed Under: Cambodia, News, Regional News, Responsible Tourism

Baphuon temple

The temple of Baphuon, part of the Angkor complex, is now re-opened after many years of painstaking reconstruction. The restoration has been called ‘the world’s largest jigsaw puzzle’. The work was carried out by the Ecole Francaise d’Extreme Orient (The EFEO Centre) in Siem Reap. The EFEO has, for over a century, restored Angkor monuments and promoted Angkor studies.

In 1992 the EFEO reopened restoration sites such as the Royal Terraces of Angkor Thom, including the Terrace of the Leper King and the so-called Terrace of the Elephants that had closed in 1975 under Khmer Rouge occupation. In 1995 the EFEO also resumed work on the Baphuon temple mountain, the largest restoration site in Angkor.

The Baphuon, one of the largest and oldest temples in the Angkor complex, had been in hundreds of thousands of pieces for decades. Built in the 11th century, it was a three-tiered temple mountain built as the official place of worship of Udayadityavarman II and dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva.

Strangely, the base of the Baphuon temple was made of sand which caused instability. By the 20th century, much of the temple had collapsed. Restoration efforts were problematic. The first effort begun in 1960 was interrupted by the coming to power of the Khmer Rouge. The situation was exacerbated when records of the positions of the stones were lost. A second attempt was started in 1995 by a team of French team-led archaeologists under guidance of the EFEO Centre. The Baphuon was rebuilt by using a very specific technique that consists of rebuilding with every stone found on the location, one by one.

The site is now open to public.