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February 29, 2016

How many repatriated (previously looted) Khmer statues can you name?

Torso of the warrior god Rama
On Wednesday February 24, 2016 the Denver Art Museum flew the repatriated tenth-century statue of the warrior god Rama, looted from Prasat Chen temple at the Koh Ker temple complex during the country's civil war in the early 1970s, home. The statue’s torso is missing its head, feet and hands.  Koh Ker (Khmer: ប្រាសាទកោះកេរ្ដិ៍) sits 120 kilometres northeast of Siem Reap and was briefly the capital of the Khmer kingdom from 928 to 944 CE. 

The Torso of Rama is just one of a series of sculptures from the Prasat Chen temple that have been repatriated over the last three years as the result of their identification as being looted. 

2 May 2013 - The Metropolitan Museum announced it will return two 10th century Koh Ker “Kneeling Attendants” which had been displayed as part of the Met’s permanent collection galleries for almost 20 years. 

December 2013 - The statue of warrior Duryodhana, which once graced the cover of Sotheby’s Asia Week catalog was returned.  In situ, this warrior was one of two matching statues facing each other in a rendition of the great Hindu epic the Mahabharata. 

3 June 2014 - The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena returned Duryodhana’s enemy Bhima. It had been on display at the museum since the 1970’s. 

June 2014 - The Christie’s auction also agreed to return a statue of Balarama which it had sold twice on the licit market, despite its illicit origins, once in 2,000, once in 2009,

May 2015 The Cleveland Museum of Art returned a one meter high sculpture of the monkey god Hanuman acquired by the Museum in 1982.

February 2016 - The Denver museum finally relinquishes the statue of the warrior god Rama at the urging of Unesco’s representative to Cambodia. 

Four more statues from the Prasat Chen temple are believed to be held in private collections.

Anne Lemaistre, Unesco’s representative to Cambodia made a public appeal to all collectors of Khmer antiquities stating,

“To have all of the statues returned to Cambodia is something Unesco has been working hard to achieve, and we appeal to anyone who may currently have one of the remaining statues in their private collection to follow the nice gesture of the Denver museum and return it,” 

For the present time the statues are being housed at National Museum in Phnom Penh. According to Cambodia Daily, the Rama torso is expected to undergo conservation treatment over the next year. 
It is hoped that there will be an opportunity to reconstruct the figure grouping as they were originally placed which can be seen in this video reconstruction.

Prasat Chen Temple at Koh Ker and “Kneeling Attendants” 




Monkey God Hanuman