Earthwalkers
Restoration, preservation, and threats

The great city and temples remained largely cloaked by the forest until the late 19th century when French archaeologists began a long restoration process. From 1907 to 1970 work was under the direction of the École française d'Extrême-Orient, which cleared away the forest, repaired foundations, and installed drains to protect the buildings from water damage. In addition, scholars associated with the school and including George Coedès, Maurice Glaize, Paul Mus, Philippe Stern and others initiated a program of historical scholarship and interpretation that is fundamental to the current understanding of Angkor.
Work resumed after the end of the Cambodia civil war, and since 1993 has been jointly co-ordinated by the French and Japanese and UNESCO through the International Co-ordinating Committee on the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor (ICC), while Cambodian work is carried out by the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA), created in 1995. Some temples have been carefully taken apart stone by stone and reassembled on concrete foundations, in accordance with the method of anastylosis. World Monuments Fund has aided Preah Khan, the Churning of the Sea of Milk (a 49-meter-long bas-relief frieze in Angkor Wat), Ta Som, and Phnom Bakheng. International tourism to Angkor has increased significantly in recent years, with visitor numbers reaching 900,000 in 2006; this poses additional conservation problems but has also provided financial assistance to restoration.

Water Table Dropping

With the increased growth in tourism at Angkor, new hotels and restaurants are being built to accommodate such growth. Each new construction drills underground to reach the water table which has a limited storage capacity. This pressure on the water table could undermine the stability of the sandy soils under the monuments at Angkor, leading to cracks, fissures and collapses.

Looting

Looting has been an ever-growing threat to the Angkor archaeological landscape. According to Aspara, the official Cambodian agency charged with overseeing the management of Angkor, "vandalism has multiplied at a phenomenal rate, employing local populations to carry out the actual thefts, heavily armed intermediaries transport objects, often in tanks or armored personnel carriers, often for sale across the Thai border."

Unsustainable tourism

The increasing number of tourists to Angkor, which the Cambodian government hopes will reach 3 million by 2010, put pressure on the sites themselves by walking and climbing on the sandstone that many of the monuments at Angkor were constructed out of. This direct pressure that unchecked tourism creates will alter the monuments in noticeable ways in the years to come.

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Earthwalkers’ · Sala Kanseng Village · Sangkat No. 2 · Siem Reap ·
Photogallery: TIM CROCKATT