Sambor Prei Kuk

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For associated archealogical sites, see Sambor Prei Kuk Group

The Sambor Prei Kuk architectural style corresponds to the first half of the 7th-century and the reigns of Indravarman I and Bhavavarman II. The rare, earlier sites at Sambor - from the reigns of Bhavavarman I and Mahendravarman - often fall into the Thala Borivat category while later additions and upgrades are considered representative of Prei Khmeng or Kampong Preah styles. Sambor Prei Kuk style is then restricted to a relatively narrow time frame. Geographical distribution is relatively wide however and Indravarman I inscriptions have been identified in southern Cambodia as well as Chanthaburi Province in today's eastern Thailand. Judging by inscriptions and lintels contemporary settlements also existed north of the Prek Thnoat River - southwest of modern-day Phnom Penh - as well as Kampong Leng district of Kampong Chhnang Province. (Prasat Preah Srei is probably the best-preserved Sambor Prei Kuk temple anywhere in Cambodia.)

However, many lintels and sculptures seen today at ancient Isanapura are later (8th-century) additions and most of the classic Sambor Prei Kuk period pieces - predominantly found in the south group, Prasat Yeay Poan and certain north group temples, Prasat Sambor (Sambor) - have been removed for safe-keeping. (The lintel at N20 is believed to be the only Sambor-period lintel remaining in situ at the ancient city site.)

Temple construction is brick towers - either solitary or in groups within enclosure walls - with wall decoration in carved brick and stucco and lintels and colonettes in sandstone. 2 unique architectural features from this period are the famous 'floating palace' decorations on the outer walls as well as the octagonal-shaped towers. Colonettes are rounded, usually lacking decoration and lintels are generally heraldic-style but more elaborate than late 7th and 8th-century designs. A thick arch is separated by 3 small medallions - featuring figures - and bordered by inward-facing makaras, often featuring riders. Few 'floating palace' reliefs remain outside of Sambor Prei Kuk although again, the Kampong Chhnang sites of Prasat Sa Khla and Prasat Preah Srei have some particularly well-preserved examples.

Prasat Bayang in far south Takeo Province is an important Bhavavarman II site (said by some to commemorate a victory over Funan) and also displays similar reliefs although lacks lintels.


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