Excavation at the Iron age burial site of Prohear, Prey Veng province


The First Golden Age of Cambodia



News from Germany, 17 September 2008

In spring 2007, one of the richest prehistoric burial sites of South East Asia was found in Prohear village but almost completely looted by the villagers. The artifacts found at the ancient burial site had been sold to middlemen representing antique dealers and in less than a year, countless burial gaves dating back 2000 years were systematically destroyed. Today, the German Archaeological Institute is working with the Memot Center in Cambodia to salvage the excavation site and ensure that its remaining treasures do not fall into the wrong hands.

The excavation site is located in the midst of Prohear village in Prey Veng province about 65 km due east of Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, and 40 km west of the border with Vietnam.

At the excavation site, only the main road through the village was spared from looting because it is municipally owned and much frequented. This 4 meter-wide path was the goal of the first archaeological campaign from February to May 2008. Together with the Memot Centre, the Commission for Archaeology of Non-European Cultures of the German Archaeological Institute conducted a salvage excavation of 24 burials lying under the main route through the village.

With its unusually rich offerings, the burial site of Prohear has surpassed all expectations. The burial sites of this region show clear cultural similarities (e.g. high pedestaled bowls of the same shape and ornamentation), but also display strikingly distinctive local features. Thus, the wealth of gold offerings is without comparison at any other burial site in this region and the great number of bronze drums from the site - although mostly undocumented - is hitherto unique for the southern parts of mainland South East Asia, far away from the Dong Son cultural area.

In the next few years, fieldwork at Prohear will be chiefly concerned in saving as many burial complexes as possible on the one hand, while analyzing the discovered artifacts and documenting features on the other.

Despite the heavy destruction of the site, from the small excavated areas alone it is clear that this cemetery is one of the most exceptional find complexes of the Pre Angkor period in this region. Most of the excavated burials at Prohear belong to the second phase of inhumation and should probably be dated from the 2nd century BC to the 2nd century AD. Radiocarbon dates are in process of analysis.
Source: DAI