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Thursday, 29 August, 2002, 22:17 GMT 23:17 UK
Cambodians unearth ancient bells
Bells
Bells may have been used in Buddhist cremation ceremonies
A landmine detection team in Cambodia thought it had found two artillery shells, reminders of the country's recent history of violence.

But the two metal objects buried near a former Khmer Rouge base in the western province of Pursat turned out to instead be reminders of Cambodia's ancient past.


As far as we know, these bells were made around 300 BC, and before this we only had one example in the museum

Men Chandevy, restoration specialist
Two bronze Buddhist bells, believed to date back to as early as 300 BC, are now in the care of Cambodia's national museum in Phnom Penh, and experts say they are a major archaeological find.

Museum officials say the bells, which are about 60 centimetres (two feet) tall, are in remarkably good condition for their age.

"This is quite exceptional," restoration specialist Men Chandevy told the Reuters news agency.

"As far as we know, these bells were made around 300 BC, and before this we only had one example in the museum," she said.

Nirvana

Metal detectors discovered the bells lying about a metre below the ground, and the landmine crew went through their normal procedures, treating the ancient treasures as explosives.

"They kept digging to ensure it wasn't a buried case of unexploded ordnance, and found the bells," de-mining consultant Eddie Chalmers told the French news agency AFP.

National museum director Khun Samen said the bells may have been used in Buddhist cremation ceremonies.

He said lines in a S-shape pattern on the bell may be a symbol of the life cycle, from birth to death and re-birth.

"It could represent finding Nirvana, liberation," he told AFP.

The bells were discovered two weeks ago but the find was announced on Thursday.

It is the second major archaeological find in Cambodia this month.

Twenty-seven solid gold Buddhas were found last weekend beneath the ruins of a temple in the central Kompong Thom province.

De-mining teams are working to remove explosives from Cambodia's countryside as it continues to recover from decades of strife.

The Khmer Rouge is blamed for two million deaths in Cambodia, where it waged civil war between 1970 and 1998 and controlled the country between 1975 and 1979.

See also:

27 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
22 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
22 Nov 01 | Crossing Continents
13 Jan 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
14 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
26 Feb 02 | Country profiles
19 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
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