Towards the end of the 6th or in the early 7th century, Khmer potters instituted an important technique for mass production of ceramics when they began to use the wheel. A Khmer inscription dating to 674 compares the source of creation to the potter’s wheel. Ceramics of this period were sometimes decorated with slip and paint, but this practice was abandoned after 800 when glazed stonewares first appeared.
The first glazed ceramics made in Southeast Asia beyond the orbit of Chinese control were associated with the Khmer rulers Indravarman and Yasovarman, who reigned from the 880s to 940. It is not known, however, how the method of firing stonewares or of glazing appeared in Cambodia.
Khmer ceramics were not exported beyond the Khmer cultural zone.
Located about 16 km southeast of Siem Reap, Roluos comprises of three temples dating to the late 9th century, and was probably a royal capital for most of the same century, before major construction began at Angkor.
Bang Kong is a kiln site about 4 km north of the Roluos temple area, where some green glazed sherds were collected. These were of good quality clay, glaze and firing technique, among the first glazed wares to be discovered (Miksic 2009: 54). They included tiles, bowls and stoneware vessels such as bottles, with most of the wares being small covered boxes that have cord-cut marks on the base, indicating the use of a potter’s wheel (ibid.: 51). The presence of glazed wares has led to the questioning of how glazing was introduced into Khmer territory, as 8th-century sites contained only unglazed earthenware, sometimes with simple, red painted decoration (Brown 1988: 42).
Excavations in recent years at Bang Kong has led to 39 kilns being identified at Bang Kong, and radiocarbon dating has yielded a late 9th century date. This is the oldest kiln complex yet dated in the Angkor region, with products differing in style to the wares of Phnom Kulen (Miksic 2009: 54).
Green glazing reached a peak in the early 11th century, and thereafter became rarer.
Sources: Brown 1988; Miksic 2009
| This 11th-century specimen is an obus-shaped finial, placed on the roof ridge of structures, made by coiling and has a watery green glaze. Other examples are visible in the Bayon reliefs at Angkor, built from the 12th-13th centuries.
H: 22 cm, D: 9.3 cm
NUS Museum S2003-0003-259-0