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Hidden paintings revealed at Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat may be covered in graffiti—but don’t worry, it’s invisible. Built in the early 12th century, Cambodia’s architecturally iconic temple is known for its intricate carvings, some of them stretching nearly a kilometer in length.

Hidden paintings revealed at Angkor Wat
A technique called decorrelation stretch analysis, which exaggerates subtle color 
differences, revealed images like this one showing two elephants
 facing each other [Credit: Antiquity, Tan et al]
But most archaeologists believe that parts of the temple were once painted as well. So when scientists noticed faint traces of red and black pigment on the walls of several rooms in Angkor Wat, they snapped pictures with a bright flash and used a tool called decorrelation stretch analysis to digitally enhance the images.

Previously used to highlight subtle color differences in images of the martian landscape taken by NASA’s Opportunity rover, this type of analysis can reveal colors too faint or faded to be seen with the naked eye.

When the researchers applied it to their photos of Angkor Wat, they found more than 200 images of boats, deities, buildings, and animals—like the elephants above (inset)—drawn on the walls throughout the temple, they report today in Antiquity.

Hidden paintings revealed at Angkor Wat
One chamber in the highest tier of Angkor Wat's central tower, known as the Bakan, 
contains an elaborate scene of a traditional Khmer musical ensemble known as
 the pinpeat, which is made up of different gongs, xylophones, wind instruments
 and other percussion instruments [Credit: copyright Antiquity]
Most of the paintings are haphazardly arranged and appear to be graffiti left by visitors after Angkor Wat was first abandoned in 1431.

But one group of carefully drawn scenes, located in the highest tier of one of Angkor Wat’s towers, might be the remains of a 16th century restoration program, when the complex was transformed from a Hindu temple into a Buddhist shrine.

The previously lost images could give archaeologists new insight into this little-known period in Cambodia’s history.

Author: Lizzie Wade | Source: Science AAAS [May 27, 2014]

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1 comment :

  1. Among the paintings from the temple I have seen
    one with two Elephants,
    It is noteworthy that Elephants are portrayed within the iconography of many ancient cultures,
    having a special place in the Indian drama,
    used sparingly, because of their sacredicy,
    as a hieroglyph in Egypt and
    found depicted with pyramids in South America,
    this is strange as they’re thought to have disappeared from that region some 12,000 years ago.
    I wonder what other wonders are to be seen in this find.


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