The Ancient or Pre-Angkorian Period
In light of the rudimentary state of knowledge on early
human occupation of the region, the "historical period"
is conventionally seen as beginning in the seventh century.
The first known constructions that are direct precursors
to the Angkor monuments date from this time, as do the region's
first remaining written documents.
In addition, a Chinese emissary, Tcheou
Ta-Kouan, left invaluable documentation on ancient Cambodia
in records of his travels to the region toward the end of
the ancient period at the close of the thirteenth century.
Thus, we know now that the ancient Khmers used light materials
(wood, bamboo, leaves, reeds, etc.) for the construction
of private homes, and even palaces : the stone structures
we see most clearly today were only the skeleton of ancient
urban complexes. Archaeological vestiges of the early historical
period indicate the existence of communities centered around
temple structures, in much the same way as villages throughout
the country are today. Moreover, epigraphic and artistic
evidence suggest the coexistence of Buddhist and Brahmanic
cults at the site.
In the Siem Reap region, known pre-Angkorian remains are
grouped principally around the Western Baray and in the
region of Roluos/Damdek.In these two areas, many of the
structuring elements of Angkorian civilization can be seen
in their embryonic forms. It is possible to trace the development
in the pre-Angkorian period of a basic socio-cultural structure
centered on religious worship with its supporting architecture,
art and inscriptions. In the context of this organizing
principle, the beginnings of mass urban development are
established, with rectangular moats surrounding at least
the western city of Banteay Choeu. Meanwhile, the epigraphic
record is marked by the coexistence of Khmer and Sanskrit
inscriptions. These are some of the forerunners announcing
the civilization that was to come to be known as Angkor.
Over the ninth century, the foundations of this civilization
were progressively consolidated.