Category:Architectural Art Styles

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To view an interactive map of the historic sites associated with each art style, click on the art style page link.

Art Styles

Please note that the classification of Angkor and pre-Angkor sites by architectural, or art, styles is far from being an exact science and details and dates offered below are approximations only. There is often considerable overlap between categories, with certain sites being stylistically 'ahead of their time' and others - particularly in remoter provinces - displaying 'retro' tendencies. Furthermore, sites were frequently constructed re-using earlier decorations found on-site or nearby, such as lintels and colonettes, so for example, a Kampong Preah style lintel does not necessarily confirm a Kampong Preah date for a temple site.

Also note that we are primarily concerned with architectural rather than sculpture style and categories such as Phnom Da and a late-7th-century Prasat Andet style, are largely applicable to the latter only.

Style Period Rulers Capital city & major sites Brief outline and main characteristics
Phnom Da A 514-539 Rudravarman Vyadhapura (Angkor Borei?); Angkor Borei, Phnom Da An art style based on a small group of sculptures - Hindu and Buddhist - found mainly at Phnom Da, (Takeo Province), and initially assigned by George Coedes to the Funanese king Rudravarman. Several statues in a similar style have also been unearthed further north in today's Kandal Stoeng District of Kandal Province.
Phnom Da B 550-617 Bhavavarman I, Mahendravarman Vyadhapura (Angkor Borei?); Prasat Asram Moha Russei More recent studies push the above sculptures to a later - early Chenla - period from the mid-6th century to early 7th. No known temple sites have been confirmed in a Phnom Da B style and while Prasat Asram Moha Russei could be included for geographical reasons, its precise dating is debated and may fit more accurately in the Thala Borivat architectural category.
Thala Borivat 6th-century; c.560-c.610 Bhavavarman I, Mahendravarman Bhavapura; Muang Paniet (Chanthaburi), Kuk Preah Theat (Hanchey), Prasat Asram Moha Russei, Thala Borivat Group Archealogical arguments still reign over whether this style predates Sambor Prei Kuk or is a regional variation from the same time frame. Examples are principally from the Mekong Valley/Stung Treng region although, rather erroneously, 2 fine examples were unearthed in Thailand's Chanthaburi Province. The basalt sites of Kuk Preah Theat (Hanchey), Prasat Asram Moha Russei are usually dated to the late 6th-century Bhavavarman I era as are certain early sites (in the north group) at Sambor Prei Kuk.
Sambor Prei Kuk Early to mid-7th-century c.610-c.650 Isanavarman I, Bhavavarman II Isanapura; Prasat Yeay Poan, Prasat Sambor (Sambor), Prasat Preah Srei, Prasat Phnom Bayang Represents the classic, 2nd phase, of construction at Isanapura, (Sambor Prei Kuk) including certain temples from all 3 major groups. Isolated Isanavarman I and Bhavavarman II period sites are widely spread and inscriptions have been found as far afield as modern-day Takeo and Chantaburi Province, (Thailand).
Prei Khmeng Mid 7th to early 8th centuries; c.650-c.715 Jayavarman I, Jayadevi Purandarapura; Prasat Ak Yum, Prasat Prei Khmeng (Boeng Khnar) Covers later additions at Sambor Prei Kuk as well as early sites to the west of Baray Khang Lech, (West Baray), which may correspond to Jayavarman I's capital of Purandarapura. Banteay Prei Nokor - a possible candidate for the Jayavarman I site of Indrapura - also plausibly fits into this category.
Kampong Preah 8th-century; c.715-c.800 Pushkaraksha (?), Mahipativarman (?), Rajendravarman I, Various Aninditapura (?); Prasat Kampong Preah, Prasat Phum Prasat (Kampong Thom), Prasat Andaet (Prasat) A broad style category encompassing most of the 8th-century; a period of Khmer history about which little is known. Temple sites were however still being commissioned or updated from earlier periods, (including at Sambor Prei Kuk). There is considerable stylistic variation as well as overlap with both earlier and later styles.
Kulen 9th-century; c.800-c.875 Jayavarman II, Jayarvarman III Mahendraparvata; Prasat Damrei Krap. Hariharalaya; Prasat Trapeang Phong, Prasat Prei Monti Covers the long reign of Jayavarman II and so may include early sites such as Banteay Prei Nokor while it is best represented by the late 8th-early 9th-century cities of Mahendraparvata on Phnom Kulen, and Hariharalaya, modern-day Rolous. Jayavarman III continued work at Hariharalaya and added and restored sites west of modern-day Siem Reap Town.
Preah Ko Late 9th-century; c.875-c.890 Indravarman I Hariharalaya; Prasat Preah Ko, Prasat Bakong, Indratataka Although most sites in the area were initiated by Jayavarman II or III and completed by Yasovarman I, the Indravarman I - Preah Ko period - is considered a high point of early architectural design and sculpture and corresponds to the classic Hariharalaya (Rolous) style. Brick temples feature intricate sandstone lintels and reliefs and detailed stucco-work.
Bakheng Late 9th to early 10th centuries; 890-923 Yasovarman I, Hashavarman I Yasodharapura; Prasat Phnom Bakheng, Prasat Phnom Kraom, Prasat Baksei Chamkrong, A formative period of early Khmer architecture, and indeed history, with the founding of the first capital at present-day Angkor. Yasovarman completed some of his father's works at Hariharalaya as well as indulging his hill-top penchant with sites at Bakheng, Phnom Kraom and Prasat Phnom Bok. Several important architectural innovations date to his reign.
Koh Ker Early to mid-10th-century; 921-944 Jayavarman IV, Harshavarman II Lingapura (Preah Vihear) (Koh Ker); Prasat Thom (Koh Ker), Prasat Kraham (Koh Ker), Prasat Krachap Known for a distinctive sculpture, as well as architectural, style Jayavarman IV's new capital of Lingapura (present-day Koh Ker) continued to introduce significant new stylistic innovations. While brick use persisted (e.g. Prasat Bram) the earliest substantial laterite towers (e.g. Prasat Neang Khmau (Koh Ker)) make their appearance and important temples such as Prasat Kraham see widespread use of sandstone.
Pre Rup Mid-10th-century; 944-968 Rajendravarman II Yasodharapura II; Prasat Pre Rup, Prasat Mebon Khang Kaeut, Prasat Bat Chum, Kutisvara The return to the Angkor area during this period saw something of a return to an earlier style with an emphasis on brick and stucco design. The period was one of political and administrative consolidation and Rajendravarman II sites are widespread throughout Cambodia. Buddhist shrines dating to this period such as Prasat Bat Chum may reflect the king's personal beliefs.
Banteay Srei Late 10th-century; 965-1000 Jayavarman V Yasodharapura II; Prasat Banteay Srei, Prasat Krachap Something of an oddity, albeit a spectacular one, as the temple isolate Prasat Banteay Srei - apparently commissioned by a high-ranking Brahmin official, rather than king - is an architectural 'one-off' and fits into a Jayavarman V transition period between Pre Rup and Khleang styles. The site is renowned for its extensive use of an attractive red-coloured sandstone displaying highly intricate carvings and an almost miniature scale.
Khleang Late 10th-century; 968-1050 Jayavarman V, Udayadityavarman I, Jayaviravarman, Suryavarman I Yasodharapura III; Prasat Ta Keo (Siem Reap), Prasat Phimeanakas, Prasat Ek Phnom, Prasat Phnom Chisor A broad category encompassing the late 10th and first half of the 11th-centuries and including the Jayavarman V period as well as the myriad, widespread constructions of Suryavarman I. A correspondingly wide range of architectural designs includes the first complete enclosed galleries, a preference for sandstone over brick and cruciform-style gopuras.
Baphuon 11th-century; 1050-1080 Udayadityavarman II, Harshavarman III Yasodharapura III; Prasat Baphuon, Prasat Mebon Khang Lech The defining site of this relatively short period, Prasat Baphuon, takes the sandstone-clad Prasat Ta Keo (Siem Reap) and laterite pyramids of Prasat Phimeanakas and Prasat Thom (Koh Ker) to new levels (literally) with the massive, tiered, eponymously-named temple. The combined weight was too much for the sandy ground and the temple is said to have collapsed at an early date.
Angkor Wat 12th-century; 1100-1177 Jayavarman VI, Dharanindravarman I, Suryvarman II, Dharanindravarman II, Yasovarman II Yasodharapura III; Prasat Angkor Wat, Prasat Banteay Samre, Prasat Beng Mealea, Prasat Phanom Rung, Prasat Preah Palilay Although the style type - Prasat Angkor Wat - dates to the mid-12th century, the category includes earlier and later sites as obvious influences can be seen in Jayavarman VI's (mainly Thai-located) temples while continued work on Suryavarman II's sites was certainly undertaken in subsequent reigns. Aside from Angkor Wat, much that can be seen today at other large sites (e.g. Prasat Beng Mealea, Prasat Preah Vihear, Prasat Preah Khan (Kampong Svay) date to this remarkable period.
Bayon Late 12th to early 13th-century; 1177-1243 Jayavarman VII, Indravarman II Yasodharapura III; Prasat Bayon, Prasat Preah Khan (Siem Reap), Prasat Ta Prohm (Siem Reap), Angkor Thom, Prasat Banteay Chhmar The Bayon period includes many of Cambodia's most famous and spectacular sites while widely scattered Jayavarman VII temples are found as far as Prasat Muang Singh and sites at Lopburi and Sukhothai in modern-day Thailand. Given the sheer number of sites, it is impossible that everything in this style was founded by Jayavarman VII himself and many were undoubtedly begun prior to, and/or completed after, his reign. The era reveals a change of state religion to Mahayana Buddhism with Lokeshvara the principal focus of worship while stylistically the period sees elaborate cruciform terraces, the iconic, carved 'faces' and of course Buddhist themed decorative elements.
Post Bayon 1243-1431 Jayavarman VIII, Indravarman III, Indrajayavarman, Jayavarman IX, Various Yasodharapura III; Terrace of the Leper King, Prasat Tep Pranam This period is characterized by 2 separate and distinctive phases; a Hindu iconoclastic period at some stage during the latter half of the 13th-century and a switch to Theravada Buddhism during the 14th-century. The former shows no new constructions but displays extensive defacing of Bayon-period Buddhist iconography while the latter sees the conversion of earlier structures, or foundations of damaged ones, to sites of Theravada Buddhist worship. Many of the numerous Angkor Thom 'terrace sites' date to this period.
Post Bayon S c. 1238-1431 Various Yasodharapura III; Wat Mahathat (Sukhothai), Wat Chedi Jet Taew (Si Satchanalai), Wat Mahathat Worawihan (Petchaburi) We're calling this category Post Bayon S - for Siam or Sukhothai take your pick - since, while temple construction during this period in Cambodia was reduced to almost nothing, it certainly wasn't among the upstart neighbours to the west. The Angkor province of Sukhodaya was ruled by Khmer-controlled Lavo (Lopburi) until a rebellion in the mid-13th-century achieved independence. This category then refers to 13th and 14th-century Sukhothai-style monuments built upon or adapted from, 12th and early 13th-century Bayon-period temples.

Lintels

A lintel is a horizontal block, set above a door frame, and transferring the weight above onto the 2 vertical columns or colonettes on either side of the opening. In pre-Angkor and Angkor architecture, they are generally rectangular-shaped, sandstone blocks and also feature as important decorative elements of a temple as well as being essential structural features. (The ignorance of the key-stone technique prohibited the use of arches above doors and windows.)

The triangular, (or curved), space between the lintel and corbelled blocks above is known as the pediment, or tympanum, which also performed an important ornamental role. In early, brick temples, lintels were sandstone and pediments often brick with stucco decoration. At later sites both lintel and pediment were sandstone and with its increased use as a construction material, from the 10th-century onwards, staggered - double or triple pediments - became a common feature.

The design of decorative carving on these elements evolved over time and is often used by archaeologists to date a site - especially where no inscription is present. The principal categories of lintels are known as decorative, heraldic and narrative. The former is a simple patterned design - often leaves or foliage - and popular at early sites whereas heraldic style features a figure, (deity) and/or mythical creatures. Narrative designs - common in temples from the 11th-century onwards - display a scene or event, generally of a mythological nature.

Art Style Image Sites Description
Thala Borivat Thala Borivat (Wat Bon Bo Phu) Wat Bon Bo Phu, Wat Thong Tua, National Museum of Cambodia Distinctive style with an arch issuing from large makaras on either side with a single, central, medallion featuring a small figure such as Garuda or Surya or a kala head. A similar design, but with 3 medallions, is distinctive of Sambor sites in modern-day Kratie and represents a slightly later sub-category.
Sambor Prei Kuk Sambor Prei Kuk (Kampong Thom Museum) Prasat Preah Srei, Prasat Sambor (Sambor), National Museum of Cambodia Usually featuring large makaras, (sometimes with riders), as with Thala Borivat style, but the generally more flattened arch is divided into 3 sections by medallions containing small figures of deities or mythical beasts. (Central one is often Indra.)
Prei Khmeng Prei Khmeng (Pr. Kok Roka, resused) Prasat Kuk Roka, National Museum of Cambodia Makaras are often replaced by figures while the arch is less curved. 3 medallions or frames also feature figures such as Indra while a depiction of Vishnu on Ananta is often seen replacing the pendant design below the arch.
Kampong Preah Kampong Preah (Prasat Phum Prasat) Prasat Phum Prasat (Kampong Thom), Prasat Kuk Roka, Prasat Andaet (Prasat), Prasat Tao, Often purely decorative and lacking figures. A flattened arch is separated into 6 sections while clumps of foliage replace medallions as well as side figures. In a distinctive later sub-category, the arch becomes a garland of leaves.
Kulen Kulen (Prasat Trapeang Phong) Prasat Damrei Krap, Prasat Trapeang Phong, Prasat Prei Monti Considerable variation with notable Cham influences and generally showing more intricate and complex designs than Kampong Preah style. Outward-facing makaras reappear with a central kala figure usually in the upper section. Foliage swirls fill spaces above and below a central garland.
Preah Ko Preah Ko (Prasat Preah Ko) Prasat Bakong, Kutisvara, Prasat Lolei, Prasat Preah Ko Deveoping the Kulen style, this category features some of the most intricate, detailed lintels yet seen. Outward-facing nagas replace makaras on each side while the naga's body replaces the vegetal garland. A central, upper-placed, kala and multiple small figures are common.
Bakheng Bakheng (Prasat Sak Kraop) Prasat Phnom Bakheng, Prasat Phnom Kraom, Prasat Baksei Chamkrong A generally much-simplified version of the previous Preah Ko style, lacking the numerous small figures but featuring nagas and a central kala. The naga body forming the arch noticeably dips towards the centre while vegetal scrolls fill spaces above and below above and below.
Koh Ker Koh Ker (Prasat Neang Khmau) Prasat Thom (Koh Ker), Prasat Chrap (Koh Ker), Prasat Krachap, Prasat Kravan Large central figure or deity may replace a kala while a narrow upper register appears featuring a repetitive row of small figures. The category is restricted to a short timeframe, as well as geographically, and few examples can still be seen in situ.
Pre Rup Pre Rup (Prasat Thnoat Chum Khang Lech) Prasat Pre Rup, Prasat Mebon Khang Kaeut, Prasat Bat Chum Eclectic period featuring elements of earlier styles. Lintels are often highly intricate featuring numerous smaller figures around a centrally-placed deity, while wider sandstone blocks are used and include upper and occasionally lower registers or repeated figures.
Banteay Srei Banteay Srei (Cambodian National Museum) Prasat Banteay Srei, Prasat Krachap Highly intricate deep reliefs. The central garland is split into 2 separate arches by a large figure or deity - each arch also commonly featuring a kala. Small, inward-facing makaras on each side emerge from naga mouths while tightly packed foliage swirls fill any spaces. Examples are restricted almost entirely to the single, eponymously-named, site.
Khleang Khleang (Pr. Muang Tam) Prasat Phimeanakas, Prasat Ek Phnom, Prasat Phnom Chisor, Prasat Snoeng Khang Lech, Wat Phu Covers a wide range of styles and timeframe. Lintels are often of simple design and much narrower than Pre Rup style) with central kala surmounted by a deity and naga body and/or makaras emerging from the kala's mouth. Simple narrative scenes are popular as central features such as the various Krishna myths as well as heraldic designs featuring Shiva on Nandi, Yama, Indra or Vishvakarma. A later Khleang-style, which may overlap with Baphuon, features simple, cartoon-like narrative reliefs (with single or double registers) such as at Prasat Snoeng Khang Lech.
Baphuon Baphuon (Pr. Baphuon) Prasat Baphuon, Prasat Mebon Khang Lech Narrative scenes continue to be popular - often with minimal vegetation as per late Khleang-style. Vishnuite/Krishna scenes are commonly displayed above a central kala which divides the garland or naga body into 2 sections. A narrow upper register is often seen.
Angkor Wat Angkor Wat (Pr. Phanom Rung) Prasat Angkor Wat, Prasat Phanom Rung, Prasat Thommanon, Prasat Banteay Samre, Prasat Beng Mealea Generally wide, 'busy' and elaborate lintels often featuring narrative scenes with centrally placed Krishna and Vishnu images again popular. The central garland is split into 2 almost rectangular sections, as per Baphuon-style, each of which is often surmounted by a figure, kala or occasionally garuda.
Bayon Bayon (Pr. Ta Prohm Tonle Bati) Prasat Bayon, Prasat Ta Prohm (Siem Reap), Prasat Preah Khan (Siem Reap), Prasat Banteay Chhmar, Prasat Banteay Kdei A large number of sites create a wide range of styles. Buddhist scenes - heraldic and narrative - predominate with Lokeshvara the most frequently seen deity though Hindu iconography continues. Lintels are somewhat simpler than Angkor Wat style.

Colonettes

Colonettes are the columns or pillars on either side of a door frame serving both decorative purposes as well as supporting the lintel. In Angkorian temples they are carved from sandstone and, as with lintels, changing design over time can be indicative of approximate construction date. They can be particularly useful in dating early sites where, as one of the few sandstone elements, they may remain visible when brickwork is long gone. Correspondingly, this does mean that they are also one of the most reused elements.

The earliest colonettes, from the late 6th to early-7th century (e.g. Sambor Prei Kuk), were generally rounded and plain with added decoration coming in during the 8th century and Prei Khmeng and Kampong Preah periods. From the 9th-century onwards more elaborate octagonal colonettes came into fashion.


Art Style Image Sites Description
Thala Borivat
Sambor Prei Kuk
Prei Khmeng
Kampong Preah
Kulen
Preah Ko
Bakheng
Koh Ker
Pre Rup
Banteay Srei
Khleang
Baphuon
Angkor Wat
Bayon

Pediments

Art Style Example Description
Bakheng
Koh Ker
Pre Rup
Banteay Srei
Khleang
Baphuon
Angkor Wat
Bayon

Pages in category "Architectural Art Styles"

The following 18 pages are in this category, out of 18 total.