Koh Ker

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For associated archealogical sites, see Lingapura (Preah Vihear)


Lingapura, or Chok Gargyar, located on the site known today as Koh Ker, was the early 10th-century capital of King Jayavarman IV. The new capital displayed considerable architectural innovation as well as a highly distinctive style of sculpture that gave rise to the Koh Ker art style.

An important yet often overlooked innovation is the increased use of laterite as a temple building material. Previously it had been widely used for enclosing walls and to build platforms for brick towers or to form pyramid tiers such as at Prasat Bakong, but Koh Ker sees large towers constructed uniquely out of the iron-rich clay. (e.g. Prasat Neang Khmau (Koh Ker).) The ease of erecting a laterite tower compared to a brick or sandstone version is considerable and also perhaps goes some way to explaining how so many sites were constructed at Koh Ker in such a short period. Khleang-style entrance pavilions are also seen for the first time while the huge 7-tiered, 36m Prasat Thom (Koh Ker) is unique in Khmer architecture.

Innovations from the Bakheng period - such as multiple enclosure walls and continuous galleries - were also increasingly employed while entrance gopuras became larger and more complex. Lintels and decorative elements seem to have taken a backseat to sculpture but still incorporated the important new elements of carved sandstone pediments and double register lintels. (i.e. a lintel with a horizontal line dividing 2 separate reliefs.)

Despite these significant architectural developments, Koh Ker style is probably best known for its sculpture and while none can be found in situ today, (the temple suffered extensive looting), several spectacular examples can be found in the National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh. Sculptures consist of solid-looking, larger-than-life, dynamic figures of Hindu gods or characters from the Mahabharata and Ramayana epics.


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