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Prek Sramoch: Unraveling Cambodia's Ancient Canal Enigma

PHNOM PENH, April 10, 2024 – Deep within the heart of Cambodia lies an enigmatic remnant of the past – Prek Sramoch, an ancient canal that has long captivated scholars and locals alike. Stretching from the sacred Phnom Kulen to the banks of the mighty Tonle Sap River, this waterway holds the key to unlocking the mysteries of the Khmer Empire's engineering marvels and the lives of those who once called its shores home.

For centuries, Prek Sramoch lay dormant, its significance fading into the collective memory of the local communities and the scant academic references that mentioned it primarily in passing. However, a renewed initiative led by Mr. Tina, Deputy Director of the Research, Training and Outreach Department, aims to shed light on this enigmatic structure, unraveling the secrets it has guarded for centuries.

The Quest for Answers:

The research team is grappling with fundamental questions about the canal's creation and its historical usage. Was it merely an irrigation channel, or did it serve a more significant role in the ancient Khmer Empire, perhaps as a transportation route for the very pottery and stone used in the majestic temples of Angkor?

Utilizing a combination of aerial photographs from 1941 and modern-day satellite imagery from Google Earth, the team has meticulously mapped out the canal's trajectory. It runs from north to south, exiting at Kampong Khleang and crossing several communes before ending near Samrong village. Interestingly, the canal does not extend to Phnom Kulen as previously thought but stops around Wat Samrong, suggesting its use was more localized than speculated.

A Waterway of Impressive Proportions:

With a total length of 23 km and varying widths of up to 300 meters at some points, Prek Sramoch’s dimensions are indeed impressive. The researchers hypothesize that its waters were fed by two primary sources: runoff from Phnom Kulen and inflow from the Tonle Sap itself.

The origins of Prek Sramoch are speculated to date back to before the reign of the illustrious Jayavarman VII, possibly even earlier, indicating its significant historical importance. Historical records suggest that it was later segmented by the construction of what is now known as National Road No. 6 during King Jayavarman VII's rule, effectively dividing it into two parts at Thnal Chek.

Echoes of the Past:

Local elders in the area recall tales of Prek Sramoch, also known as Sampov Road, being a bustling waterway where ships once navigated from the Tonle Sap River up to Phnom Kulen, transporting the very stone used for the construction of the majestic temples of Angkor.

These oral histories, passed down through generations, offer tantalizing glimpses into the canal's significance in the daily lives of those who once called its banks home. They speak of a time when the waterway was a vital artery, facilitating the movement of people, goods, and the raw materials that would ultimately shape the architectural wonders of the Khmer Empire.

Unearthing Secrets from the Past:

The 2024 excavation at Thmey Village in Kampong Khleang Commune is part of an ongoing effort to uncover more about Prek Sramoch. This excavation has unearthed various artifacts, including fragile and polished pottery dating back to pre-Angkorian times, offering a glimpse into the lives of those who once inhabited this area.

These archaeological finds, coupled with the oral histories and historical records, paint a vivid picture of a thriving community that relied on the canal for sustenance, transportation, and perhaps even spiritual significance.

Preserving a Legacy:

This renewed exploration not only aims to map out the physical expanse of Prek Sramoch but also to piece together the story of human settlement along its banks, thereby enriching our understanding of Cambodia's profound and complex history.

As the research team continues to unravel the mysteries of this ancient waterway, they are also working to preserve its legacy for future generations. Plans are underway to develop educational programs and tourism initiatives that will showcase the significance of Prek Sramoch and its role in shaping the rich cultural tapestry of Cambodia.

By delving into the past, we not only honor the ingenuity and resilience of our ancestors but also gain a deeper appreciation for the intricate web of human endeavor that has shaped our world. Prek Sramoch stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of exploration and the insatiable human desire to uncover the secrets that lie beneath the surface.



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