Evidence for the 15th Century Ayutthayan Occupation of Angkor

Martin Polkinghorne, Christophe Pottier, Christian Fischer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The years of 1431/1432 are commonly cited as the date of Angkor’s collapse. The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya and Cambodia declare that an Ayutthayan invasion conquered the city, bringing the age of Angkor to a close. As the narrative of a city abandoned to the jungle propelled Angkor into the modern imagination, an invasion from a foreign power was the first and most straightforward explanation for a catastrophic episode that supposedly involved the relocation of many hundreds of thousands of people. Rather than one event, recent research has revealed Angkor’s decline was the result of complex contributing factors including unsustainable subsistence practices, over-commitment to massive infrastructure, severe climactic fluctuations, and a response to new trading opportunities. If an Ayutthayan conquest was not a causal factor for the demise of Angkor how might we now understand the proposed twelve to fifteen-year occupation? The celebrated discovery of the monumental Bayon Buddha in the early 20th century casts a shadow on another smaller Buddha image found at the same time. This small image reveals much about Angkor between the 13th and 16th centuries. Now recognised as an early Ayutthayan type, identification of more than fifty additional images are likely the first material evidence of the Ayutthayan incursion at Angkor. Stone characterisation analysis demonstrates the images were manufactured at Angkor and we propose that the sculptures were made as the offerings of an occupying force and their artists to nagara hlvan, the great capital.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Renaissance Princess Lectures
Subtitle of host publicationIn Honour of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn
Place of PublicationBangkok, Thailand
PublisherSiam Society
Number of pages34
ISBN (Print)9786169140542
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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