Archaeology, Heritage and Museums | Roland Fletcher
Perceptions of Angkor: archaeology, politics and heritage
Roland Fletcher | University of Sydney
Angkor is iconic and has been resumed into many assumptions about archaeology, politics and heritage. Assumptions about Angkor are strong. It is frequently conflated with Angkor Wat, one of its temples, which is the equivalent of referring to Sydney as St Mary’s cathedral. Then again Angkor Wat is sufficiently iconic that it has been represented on the national flag of every government of the Cambodian state since the late 19th century – no matter what political position or ideology has been espoused.
The scale of Angkor has also led to misperceptions especially that between the 9th and the 16th centuries CE it was a collection of successive small walled towns – a 19th century European assumption that still persists. The UNESCO designation of Angkor only protects its central 300 sq km, not the more than 1000 sq km low-density urban landscape of Greater Angkor – the largest in the world before the 19th century CE.
Disagreements have swirled around its water system, based on serious misconceptions. And its combined engineering, economics and ritual, represented by the great 6m reclining statue of Vishnu in the centre of the 16 sq km reservoir of the West Baray, call in to question the dichotomies of European expectation. Angkor was not and is not what it seems.
Date: Thursday, 28 April 2022
Time: 4-5pm (AEST, GMT +10)