Covered in intricate carvings and bas reliefs, the Angkor temples are known for their incredible craftsmanship and impressive designs. Apsaras (heavenly beings) adorn the walls of Angkor Wat while 216 giant faces grace the towers of Prasat Bayon. Though Ta Prohm temple is recognised for its jungle-like setting with silk-cotton and strangler fig trees growing over the crumbling walls, it also boasts some well-preserved carvings, including one very unlikely design…a stegosaurus!
Ta Phrom may be best-known for its epic tree roots and role in the 2001 Tomb Raider film, but the fascinating temple’s odd dinosaur carving is also an enigmatic draw for visitors in the know. Located in a corner of a courtyard, left of the central exit, a small stegosaurus is carved into the stone. Since the temple was built by King Jayaraman VII in the late 1100s, the perplexing carving brings up several questions and theories – how did the ancient Khmer kingdom know what a stegosaurus was?
While some believe the Khmer may have unearthed dinosaur fossils, others think that the carving must have been made recently as a joke or hoax. Still, others believe that perhaps this shows dinosaurs lived in Southeast Asia much, much later than previously believed. Then again, the carving may be a cow or water buffalo in front of palm fronds which, to our modern eye, simply looks like a stegosaurus.
Though we may never know the truth, it’s still fun to be let in on Ta Phrom’s secret and spot the mysterious stegosaurus on a visit to the temple!
Let’s see if you can find it: https://www.google.com/maps/about/behind-the-scenes/streetview/treks/angkor/