National Geographic : 2015 Feb
Ancient Worlds EXPLORE PHOTOS: NOEL HIDALGO TAN (ABOVE, BOTH); ØSTFYNS MUSEUMS Built nine centuries ago in what is now Cambodia, Angkor Wat draws millions of visitors each year. Some head to the Buddhist temple—which was originally dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu—for religious reasons. Others come to take in the site’s famously intricate carvings. A team of archaeologists, though, is focused on a less obvious attraction: some 200 elaborate, roughly 16th-century paintings that had been obscured by the effects of weather and time. To see them, rock art re- searcher and study leader Noel Hidalgo Tan uses a technique that combines digital photog- raphy and computer analysis. “What was once thought to be a faint splotch on the wall,” he says, “turns out to be two elephants or an entire Khmer orchestra.” The purpose of the artwork isn’t clear, but further investigation could offer clues to the monument’s past. Tan theorizes that some pieces were commissioned by a king. —Catherine Zuckerman In Angkor Wat, Art Revealed VIKING GENDER BENDER? At first glance a gilded silver figurine from Denmark appears to be a woman wearing a long dress. Standing 1.85 inches tall and pierced for stringing, the figurine would have hung from the neck of someone im- portant, possibly a priest, in the ninth century. Claus Feveile, curator at the Østfyns Museums, studied the pendant after its discovery last April. He believes it may represent a Norse deity—a goddess, or perhaps even a god in the guise of a woman. “The way the figure is standing, with the hands in front of the belly, we know from a few other figurines,” he says. “They are naked, and clearly men.” —A . R. Williams Digital enhancement reveals a pair of elephants in a new- found, centuries-old painting at Angkor Wat.