Skip to main content

The provenance of the sandstone used for the construction of temples in the World Heritage Site of Angkor, Cambodia

Many of the Angkor temples with their magnificent decoration are built of sandstone. A greyish-green variety of arkose with an argillitic-chloritic binding was used typically, including the famous temple Angkor Wat.

The provenance of the “temple sandstone” can be located at the Eastern slope of the Kulen mountain as part of the Upper Triassic and Lower Jurassic Terrain Rouge formation. The properties of the building stones vary widely and this results in various forms of damage and decay. Therefore, knowledge of the deposits and the quarries is essential.

Using digital terrane models with data acquired in 2015 by the Cambodian Archaeological Lidar Initiative (CALI) the fieldwork was executed. Wide areas with flat pit-quarries were found in the densely forested area, some were known since the 1960s. Sedimentary structures and the tectonic fracture pattern could be detected in the digital terrane model.

Sandstone was quarried in many sites obviously at the same time in different stratigraphic levels due to the high demand during the construction of big temples within a relatively short time. Thus, different sandstone varieties occur in a single temple.

The quarries are often flat pits and tool marks are frequently observed. Preformatted blocks are still found in and near the quarries.

A schematic cross-section of the sedimentary sequence of the eastern slope of the Kulen Mountains could be documented particularly along a newly built road. The so far proposed stratigraphy needs a major revision.


Gerhard Lehrberger1, Hans Leisen2, Esther von Plehwe-Leisen3
1Technische Universität München, Lehrstuhl für Ingenieurgeologie, AG Kulturgeologie; 2Cologne Institute of Conservation Sciences (CICS) at Technische Hochschule Köln; 3LPL Stone Conservation Köln
GeoMinKöln 2022