Pre-Angkorian archaeological treasure sees light

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A large 7th century artifact described as one of the most significant archaeological items ever found in Laos has been unearthed at a world heritage site in the country's south, local media reported Wednesday.

The discovery was made during archaeological excavations at Phou Kao, a mountain site associated with the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Vat Phou complex in the southern province of Champassak, state-run media Vientiane Times reported.

The piece, featuring carvings of figures from Hindu mythology, measures 2.2 meters by 90 centimeters wide.

The 22-cm-thick sculpture was located under a 20-cm layer of debris.

Sivone Vangkhonevilay, Deputy Director of Champassak Provincial Department of Information, Culture and Tourism, hailed the discovery of the piece, which was likely attached to a shrine gate.

"This is considered to be the most special and rare discovery in our country that archeologists have ever made, particularly regarding the historical value of the sculpture."

Other smaller items have also been located nearby.

Preparations are being made to put the sculpture on public display at the Vat Phou site.

According to UNESCO, the Vat Phou Temple complex and surrounding landscape represents a development ranging from the 5th to 15th centuries, mainly associated with the Khmer Empire that later centered on Angkor Wat, near Siem Reap in present-day Cambodia.

The site incorporates geometric pattern of temples, shrines and waterworks extending over some 10 km to the banks of the Mekong River and includes Phou Kao mountain and its surroundings.

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