Archaeology Magazine Archive

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Floods Threaten Thai Monuments Volume 49 Number 2, March/April 1996
by Matthew Draper

The worst floods in more than two decades have inundated sites in northeastern Thailand, including the 600-year-old ruins of Sukothai, the country's first capital (see ARCHAEOLOGY, July/August 1990). Also seriously damaged are the ruins of Ayutthaya, which served as the capital from the fourteenth to eighteenth centuries. Prolonged flooding has eroded the soil foundations of many of the temples, including Wat Chai Wattanaram, a recently restored complex, and officials warn that the structures may eventually collapse. "We need experts and technology from abroad to survey the damage," says Bavornvet Rungruji, director of the Ayutthaya Historical Park Project.

Many of Thailand's temple monuments have been restored in recent years using clay brick, which deteriorates in water. Rebuilt facades also absorb more moisture than ancient ones, which had a protective covering of limestone. Since the Thai parliament has failed to allocate emergency funds for the sites, only the most pressing repairs are being made, according to Prachote Sangkhanukit, director of the Office of Archaeology. Thailand has petitioned UNESCO for money to repair Ayutthaya and Sukothai, both World Heritage Sites. Meanwhile, Thai engineers are building a raised road around Ayutthaya to serve as a dike to stem further flooding.

* The Thai Heritage Page presents an overview of Thailand's prehistory and photographs of the Phanom Rung shrine, Ayudhaya, and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

© 1996 by the Archaeological Institute of America