Baphuon block (Rightindex)

Angkor, Cambodia: World's biggest 3D jigsaw puzzle solved

4th July 2011

11th-century Khmer tower finally re-opened after archaeologists take decades to put it back together

Baphuon, an intricately-carved, three-tiered Hindu temple at the heart of the Angkor Thom complex, was finally re-opened this month after workers finally put over 300,000 sandstone blocks together again.

The temple was built in 1060 by Udayadityavarman II  (although it may have been started earlier) and was dedicated to Shiva and originally covered in bronze, none of which remains.

The £9m project began in the 1960s when a team of French archaeologists decided that the only way to save the temple from collapsing was to take it apart and put it back together again. Each block had a number painted on it and marked in a matching entry on a master plan so the tower could be rebuilt.

Disaster struck when the Khmer Rouge took power in 1975 and destroyed the master plan. When the project was restarted in 1995, the reconstruction team were faced with a daunting task. Pascal Royere, the French archaeologist overseeing the project, explained that no two blocks had the same dimensions. And because no mortar was used, each stone had its own place.

“We were facing a three-dimensional puzzle,” said Mr Royere. “ A 300,000-piece puzzle to which we had lost the picture.”

Despite the best efforts of archaeologists, more than 10,000 stones were left over and lay scattered on the forest floor surrounding the temple.

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