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The Angkor Vihara Project: Mapping and Excavating Early Theravada Buddhist Monasteries at Angkor, Cambodia

The Angkor Vihara Project, a collaborative campaign between the Archaeology Centre of the University of Toronto and APSARA National Authority, has sought to clarify both the religious transition and syncretism between Hindu and Mahayana Buddhist (Brahmano-Buddhist) temple (prasat) construction and Theravada (Sinhalese/Pali) Buddhist monastic construction. This unique religious phenomenon, one which proves pivotal to both ancient and modern Cambodian religious history, is thought to have occurred beginning in 13th century, and features primarily within the civic-ceremonial citadel of Angkor Thom, where upwards of seventy prayer-halls/vihara (Khmer: preah vihear, known archaeologically as “Buddhist Terraces”) have been identified. Archaeological campaigns conducted by the Angkor Vihara Project between 2017-2023 have focused on the mapping, structural analysis, and excavation of these ancient sanctuaries alongside artifactual and radiometric analysis. Our results have not only established preah vihear as prominent and overwhelmingly abundant religious architectures from the 14th century onwards, but also as focal points of community, social organization, and microcosms of a larger politico-religious order embedded within architecture in a similar manner to prasat. This presentation will primarily discuss the material results and formative interpretations generated from both campaigns, but will also briefly engage with previous studies exploring the relationship of preah vihear and different documented phases of Brahmano-Buddhist temple-conversion, important processes key to understanding the establishment of premodern Theravadin Cambodia.

About the speaker

Andrew Harris earned his PhD in Anthropology (Archaeology) in 2021 at the University of Toronto and is currently employed as a postdoctoral research fellow in Southeast Asian Archaeology and Numismatics at the National University of Singapore. He is also an appointed Research Fellow at the Archaeology Centre of the University of Toronto (ACUT). Through the latter role, Dr. Harris serves as the director of the Angkor Vihara Project, a collaborative archaeological research program between ACUT and APSARA National Authority in Cambodia investigating the religious transition of Angkorian society to Theravada Buddhism through monastic construction and settlement c. 13th-16th centuries CE. Dr. Harris has recently published on his research in World Archaeology, Asian Archaeology, Medieval Worlds, and Artibus Asiae, with a chapter in the upcoming Brill Handbook on Memory: Southeast Asia.


Thursday, 6 June 2024 at 19:00


Lecture Room, 4/Floor, The Siam Society


Members and Students (to undergraduate level) — Free of charge
Non-Members — THB 300

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