[Report] Archaeological Survey of Hong Nang Sida. Technical Report prepared as a contribution to UNESCO-Laotian Project for the Safeguarding of Wat Phu

A short description of archaeological features in the area between the so-called Hong Nang Sida temple, south of Wat Phu (Champasak, Laos), and the bank of the Mekong. Maps are not any longer available to me
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  UNESCO-LAOTIAN INTERNATIONAL PROJECT FOR THE SAFEGUARDING OF WAT PHU (Italian Trust-in-Funds Project 534/LAO/70)  Oscar Nalesini  ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY OF HONG NANG SIDA   Technical Report prepared as a contribution to UNESCO-Laotian Projectfor the Safeguarding of Wat Phu Rome, 30 th December 1997   The survey of the archaeological remains in the area surrounding the Angkorian templecommonly referred to with the vernacular name of Hong Nang Sida (henceforth HNS) wascarried out in the frame of the archaeological reconnaissance for the safeguarding project of WatPhu January and February 1997. The archaeological traces described below reveal the existence of a well organized settlementdating to the Angkorian period, a period for which there is little evidence around Champasak besides the well-known Wat Phu ruins. The inscriptions from Wat Phu and near-by sites record the donation of villages and plots of agricultural land to the temple throughout this period. This was a common practice in the wholeKhmer state and, though no direct evidence is available, we are akin to consider Hong Nang Sidaas a part of the earthly domain of the temple-based sangha  . Site location   The site of HNS occupies a flat area about 1.5 km. south of the smaller barays of Wat Phu Temple. The entire area is used today for rice-fields, converted to pastures in the dry season. The western limits of the site are clearly set on the south-eastern slope of the Phu Kao. These mountain's flanks were relevant for the inhabitants of HNS, as they quarried there thesandstone (and presumably cut the timber) used for the buildings of their settlement. Thecuttings of the quarries are still visible, and some unfinished sandstone blocks still lay scattered insmall clearings at the foot of the mountain slope. This western portion of the site was alsoimportant for the moving of the people, as the main road connecting Wat Phu to the sites farthersouth (Thao-Tao, Ban That, and ultimately the northern Cambodian plain) ran through it. To the north, the bed of the Houay San river was taken as a provisional boundary. Archaeological remains are in fact found on the ground north of this small river, but the wholearea until the Wat Phu barays has been severely upset by mechanical leveling because of barracksbuilding for the Lao Army. So far the relationship of these poor traces to the otherarchaeological remains south of the Houay San, or to the site of Ban Nong Sa to the East, is notyet clearly understood.   The aerial pictures show in fact an irregular line running south and east of HNS site coming down from the Phu Kao slope, that corresponds to the remains of an earthen rampart whichpresumably was the southern border of the angkorian settlement. The eastern limit of the HNSsite is still unclear.On the other hand the distribution of the archaeological remains in this sections of the siteroughly corresponds to the contour-line of 95-96 m. It may be suggested that the site took advantage of a location on the uppermost level of the plain descending onto the Mekong riverand right afoot the mountain, thus in the position to manage the flow of water during the rainy season, and the drainage of water for the field on the lower levels of the plain.Summing up: the location of HNS can be understood in relation to a series of factors: 1)closeness to the sources of the building materials; 2) presence of the main road leading south; 3)possibility to tap and manage the water resources; 4) the relationship to Wat Phu temple, and theparticipation to the activities connected to worship and/or pilgrimage. Site structure   The site of HNS was built according to a rational plan, whose geomatric lay-out can still beobserved and recorded. The core area of the site is almost square inshape. It is delimited andfurther subdivided in four “quarters” by a network of perpendicular channels. The distribution of the archaeological remains inside these “quarters” does not apparently follow any regularscheme. It must be observed, however, that this distribution was heavily biased by post-depositional events, namely the moving of stones by the farmers working the area as paddy flield.Until some stratigraphic work will be carried out, we cannot reach any definit conclusion on thesrcinal distribution of the monuments. To the East and to the West the site shows a different organizasion. The easternmostportion of HNS is occupied by a very large baray, measuring ca. 600x200 m., with the longer sideoriented east-to-west.On the western side of HNS we find the monumental area, where the main temple is stillstanding. The main temple area is marked by a stone wall, enclosing also a set of minor buildings:a brick library, two minor temples or chapels in the south-western (bricks) and north-westerncorners (sandstone) respectively, plus the possible remain of a platform and another building  which has been tentatively identified as a  gopura  , but could well be a pavillon. This area is  connected to the embankment of the channel delimiting the west side of the core area by asandstone road lined by road-stones. Other religious (?) structures were identified the maintemple enclosure. The channel network deserves some more comments, as they go beyond the site’s limits. Infact they belong to a larger network spread over a wide area. Two of the three North-to-Southchannels seem the most important: the easternmost connects HNS to the moat surrounding BanNong Sa, 1 km. farther North, while the westernmost channel is much longer, as it probably starts near the barays of Wat Phu and stretching as far south as Thao-Tao, and maybe beyond. Another main feature of this channel is that it runs parallel to the already mentioned main road,thus providing a supplementary way of transportation during the rainy season. Chronology   The HNS main temple is usually dated to the 11 th cent. on the base of stylistic comparison with monuments in Cambodia and Thailand. The temple has not been studied in detail so far.Such a study, though long needed, will in any case account for the dating of the present state of that building only. No direct evidence is yet available to date the other site’s minor monuments,nor the ancient channels and barays, with the exeption of a few areas where 11 th -12 th century pottery was picked up. At this stage we can only attribute the site to a long time-span: 9 th -14 th century.  C  ATALOGUE   OF    THE    ARCHAEOLOGICAL   FEATURES  Area No. : 1000/A (SDA Card) Structure type : Temple Building material : Sandstone Description: Main temple of the site and central sanctuary of the enclosure. The prang and theroof of the mandapa collapsed, but the monument is otherwise in conditions suitable forrestoration. It is usually datetd to the 11 th century.  Area No. : 1000/B (SDA Card) Structure type : Library  Building material : Brick, sandstone Description: Library, located in the usual position: south of the temple and with the entranceoriented to the West. The walls are mostly collapsed, but the central room is clearly visible,and the sandstone door-posts are still standing   Area No. : 1000/C (SDA Card) Structure type : Temple Building material : Sandstone Description: Small temple or chapel in the North-western corner of the Main Temple enclosure.It differs from the corresponding building in the South-eastern corner, as it is fully built insandstone. The plan cannot be reconstructed from the wide scatter of the blocks.  Area No. : 1000/D (SDA Card) Structure type : Temple Building material : Brick  Description: Small temple or chapel in the South-western corner of the Main Temple enclosure. The walls are completely collapsed but, from what can be understood looking at themound, the base should be intact.  Area No. : 1000/E (SDA Card) Structure type : Gopura or pavillon
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