Category:Ancient Quarry

From Beyond Angkor
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Quarry.jpg Although clearly not religious sites in their own right the ancient quarries used to source the sandstone employed in their construction are nonetheless of great historical significance. From early times sandstone was used for decorative elements of brick temples such as lintels and colonettes while from the early 10th-century onwards it became the primary building material for monuments. Primary finishing material would be more correct as the foundations and basic structure of later sites was convenient and easy to find laterite, which was then clad in sandstone.

Laterite is the locally found red-coloured clay (due to high iron content) that oxidizes in contact with air. Blocks could then be shaped as a moat was dug for instance, and then left to harden naturally. As laterite soils are ubiquitous throughout Cambodia and indeed Southeast Asia, it would have been largely sourced in situ and specific laterite quarries are harder to locate.

Mesozoic sandstone and quartzites are the predominant rock of hills in central and western Cambodia and several ancient quarry sites can be seen today. The best known are on the east of the Kulen massif which is thought to have supplied much of the stone for the temples at Angkor. Chemical composition varied - see for example the red sandstone at Prasat Banteay Srei - although Kulen strata, with high quartz content, is particularly durable. Metamorphic, shale-style, schist was widely used in what is today the Kandal, Phnom Penh area and can be identified by its grey coloured and flakier texture.

As many sites are located on sandstone hills, stone was also sourced in situ during construction. The levelling and preparation of hilltop sites such as Phnom Bakheng and Preah Vihear provided huge quantities of raw materials and so such temples became de facto quarry sites. Parts of the lowest tier at Prasat Phnom Bakheng and indeed some of the steps at Prasat Preah Vihear are carved directly out of the living rock. Some estimates for the latter claim that up to 6m of sandstone was removed (and reused) during levelling of the site. (Partially carved blocks can be seen in place on the south side of the main shrine.)

Other hilltop sites such as Prasat Phnom Chisor have adjacent quarries which continued in use until recent times.