Sunday, October 01, 2006

Claude Jacques - Angkor historian

Claude Jacques (centre) at one of his favourite temples. Photo courtesy of Michael Freeman.
Historian, epigraphist and author, Claude Jacques, is probably the greatest living authorithy on Angkor and the ancient Khmer empire. At 77 years old, he's as active as ever and is just about to publish a lavish 400 page book, The Khmer Empire, with some 430 colour photographs by collaborator Philippe Lafond. Journeying behind the well-known temples of Angkor, Jacques will reveal the marvels of many sites previously inaccessible to most travellers and will include site plans, aerial shots of the cities as well as detailed photographs showing the reliefs and other wonderful carvings. River Books of Thailand are the publishers. Jacques is already a seasoned author, having published two excellent books with ace photographer Michael Freeman, Angkor Cities & Temples in 1997 and Ancient Angkor in 1999.

Claude Jacques was born in France in 1929, studying in Lyon and Paris before a fellowship in India. His first involvement in Cambodia came in September 1961 when he took on the position of professor of epigraphy and art at the Royal Phnom Penh University. Four years later he helped create the faculty of archaeology at the university. Throughout his nine years in Cambodia, he also pursued his own research at Angkor and elsewhere as a member of the EFEO, following in the footsteps of the late great George Coedes, before returning to Paris in 1970. An expert in Sanskrit, Khmer and Cham scripts, he spent the next twenty years teaching SEAsian history at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes in Paris, before being appointed a special advisor to the UNESCO director-general for Angkor and Cambodia. It was Jacques who in December 1998 spotted an inscribed stele from the remote Banteay Chhmar complex in an antique shop in Bangkok and raised the alarm that major parts of the temple's carvings had been stolen (with some of them subsequently recovered). He shows little sign of slowing down in his quest to unravel and share the secrets of the ancient Khmer empire.

1 comment:

Khmer Pacifist said...

Hi Andy,

Nice to read your postings. They are very informative.