Temple Savior, Cambodia
Cambodia in South-East Asia has a large number of historic temple grounds. Many of them were built by Khmer god-kings, especially from the 9th to the 13th century. A very unique building is the “Prasat Kravan” temple, which nowadays is part of the world heritage “Angkor Park”. The provincial capital Siem Reap is the point of departure for temple sightseeing. Travelers with a low budget as well as wealthy tourist find all kinds of accommodations here.
The Cologne Institute for Conservation Sciences cares for the preservation of endangered reliefs and inscriptions of the "Prasat Kravan" temple in the Angkor area of Cambodia. Utilizing specific conservation measures, the scientists aim to stop the decay of the temples preserving irreplaceable cultural assets for future generations. Furthermore, a specially designed “Temple Savior” program intends to serve as a standardized program for historic preservation methods and trains its participants to be temple saviors.
When Prof. Dr. Hans Leisen (Cologne University, Institute for Conservation Science, CICS) first visited Angkor to investigate the Prasat Kravan temple in 1995, he discovered that many temple decorations were at risk, and the base-relief sandstone was particularly vulnerable. Further investigations showed that a large number of reliefs were threatened by decay, mainly through an almost insidious form of damage to the shell formations. Subsequently the German Apsara Conservation Project (GACP) was founded, supported by the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany and the University of Applied Sciences in Cologne. The GACP is the only project in Angkor with the goal of conserving and preserving temple decorations and is frequently requested to support other projects within the area.
The goal of the project "Temple Savior" is the conservation of the decorations at the Prasat Kravan temple. A holistic approach is proposed, including the preservation of the base-reliefs on the inside, the inscriptions on the doorjambs, the reliefs on the lintels and the octagonal columns of the door construction. Local restorers are trained in “high sophisticated” conservation techniques in order to be able to work independently all year even when the German colleagues are not on-site. In addition to the conservation measures, preventative measures are being developed and implemented.
After completion of the restoration work safety mechanisms shall be installed to protect the sensitive reliefs and inscriptions. Moreover, temple guards are trained who ought to protect especially the highly vulnerable inscriptions from the frequent and damaging touching by tourists.