National Geographic : 2000 Aug
There, a small spirit shrine stood in the shade. Its thatched roof protected three old stones partly carved with lotus blossoms-all that was left of the temple of Nokor Pheas. "Neak ta," whispered Moore. "Ancestor stones." They embody the spirits of the village's ancestors, she said. The worship of neak ta was part of the animist religion of Cambodia; dur ing the Angkor period it was incorporated into the Hindu concept of the lingam, a sacred stone phallus symbolizing the god Siva kept in the inner precincts of many temples. I touched one of the neak ta and ran my finger into the cool groove of a carved lotus. Here, broken stones from an Angkor temple had been put in the service of an even more ancient religion. One of our soldiers, a skinny, barefoot teenager with an AK-47 slung over his shoulder, stopped at the shrine, placed his hands together, and bowed deeply in an act of veneration. A gecko called twice, and then the forest fell silent in the stifling noonday heat. Life went on in this strange, timeless land. Q What can be done to help impoverished peoples maintain their antiquities? Comment online at www.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0008. SAC RED SPACE to Buddhists, like these monks praying at the Bayon, the serene temples of Angkor have long uplifted apeople devastated by poverty and war.Aided by internationalteams ofpreservationists,Cambodianarchitects,engineers, and artisansnow struggle againsttime and thieves to document and restore this ancient core of their identity.