Apsara Authority to Restore Ta Prohm Statue’s Fallen Face

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The apsara statue with the face fallen off. (Hap Kim An)
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The missing face that recently fell from an apsara statue in Ta Prohm in Angkor Archaeological Park will be restored as soon as the weather obliges, the Apsara Authority said this week.

On the morning of September 30, a temple official reported that the face of a prominent carving had cracked and fallen off, according to a statement. Ta Prohm is famous for the trees and roots growing in and around the temple grounds.

The effect was a faceless statue looking out from a thicket of roots and alarming those accustomed to seeing its full form. In one Facebook post that was shared more than 5,000 times, a Siem Reap tour guide called on police to explain the loss along with photos of the missing stone: “What could have caused this?” he asked.

The apsara statue's fallen face. (Hap Kim An)
The apsara statue’s fallen face. (Hap Kim An)

But the statue’s face had not been stolen or even damaged: As roots grew behind the statue’s stone surface, they pushed into preexisting cracks and caused the face of the carving to fall, Apsara official Neth Simon explained in a statement Tuesday. In another stroke of luck, the face landed among more tree roots and avoided major breakage.

Srieng Kimsron, a geology lecturer at Phnom Penh Teacher Education College, said stones such as those in Ta Prohm rarely break off unless an object or people disturb them. But old age — as well as weather, water or wind — can sometimes cause such changes, he said.

After reviewing the photo of the fallen face, Kimsron said that the emergence of the roots closer to the surface of the statue’s face had caused the stone to break down. It can be reattached with a certain kind of cement, he added.

“It won’t break down with just simple conditions, unless something disturbs it,” Kimsron said.

The Apsara Authority is keeping the face in a safe place until the weather improves enough to put it back.

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