Excavating the Ancient Ruins of Angkor Wat
Hanyang University Museum excavation team in Angkor Wat
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Hanyang University Museum successfully revealed the archeological structures of the Terrace of the Elephants, in Angkor Wat, Cambodia, which had been buried. for a long time. Professor Ahn Shin-won (Department of Cultural Anthropology) proudly shared his experiences and thoughts on the meaningful discovery, while calling attention to the Hanyang University Museum becoming a cultural asset to Hanyang’s community.
Hanyang University Museum has achieved many remarkable results in the research of sites, which is exemplary in comparison to other university museums. The museum conducted impressive research into some renowned archeological locations in South Korea, like the Hanam Misari Ruins and the Ansaneupseong Fortress, as well as abroad in Japan, where they contributed to the excavation of the remains of the victims of forced labor during the Japanese colonial period. Their meaningful excavation was also made into a documentary in 2015. In 2020, the excavation team is scheduled to go on yet another excavation project in Hanam, Hwasung, and Ansan, which presents them with opportunities that not many other university museums have.
Their outstanding work became the foundation for what led to their participation in the excavation of the Terrace of the Elephants. The Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation which supervised the participants of the research inquired about receiving the support of the Hanyang University Museum, which was a decision made based on the archeological experience that the museum possessed. The excavation team that participated in the research consisted of two research professors and five students of Hanyang Graduate School alongside Professor Ahn.
The Terrace of the Elephants is located in Angkor Wat, which was the capital of Cambodia from the 9th to the 15th century under the reign of the Khmer Empire. Angkor Wat is a registered World Heritage Site, and is a huge attraction for archeologists around the globe. In particular, the Terrace of the Elephants remains a memorable location for Cambodia where national events are held.
The team prepared for their journey starting in November 2019 and completed their first research expedition in March 2020. Although he had visited Angkor Wat a few times before, Ahn said it felt completely different to simply visit and to participate in research there. The apprehension about failure, unexpected problems, and the unseen competition among the institutions involved all made him feel a great degree of responsibility. “I always emphasized that our journey was not only a new opportunity for the team, but also an act of upholding the honor of South Korea and Hanyang University.”
Ahn and his team were met hardships along the way. “The most difficult part was dismantling the Terrace of the Elephants,” said Ahn. “Other temples of Angkor Wat had been dismantled and restored, but the Terrace of the Elephants had never been dismantled – forcing us to guess where all the inner structures of the building were.” For a stable operation, the team had to go through the process of numbering every single brick.
Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic added to the problems. Ahn’s team had to endure countless rearrangements of flights and accommodations, reducing the time which they were allotted for research. “We couldn’t conduct as much research as we wanted. Cambodia, initially, didn’t have an issue with the virus, but there was concern that one of the local workers at the site was a possible host, so the team was on constant alert,” said Ahn.
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