Virtualizing the Temple of Bayon

Part of the Transcultural Research – Heidelberg Studies on Asia and Europe in a Global Context book series (TRANSCULT)


The Bayon temple—located at the centre of Angkor Thom and built by king Jayavarman VII (1181–c.1220)—has been virtualized several times since the ‘rediscovery’ of the Angkor site by Europeans in the middle of the nineteenth century CE. Some of this ‘virtualization’ has involved artistic interpretations of the Bayon, while others were actual archaeological reconstructions based on knowledge of the monument at that time. The layout of the Bayon is its first virtualization, and its evolution from the end of the nineteenth century to the 1960s, shows the complexity and the difficulty met by the explorers and architects who have tried to depict the temple. This paper discusses the recent virtualization of this complex Khmer temple as a three-dimensional model based on a specific context of the building’s archaeological history. Like classical archaeological reconstruction drawings, the main purpose of this kind of virtualization of ancient buildings using 3D modelling is the depiction of a monument in its original shape before deterioration. In the specific case of the Bayon, this purpose poses several challenges linked with the site’s complex architectural history. It is not just one archaeological reconstruction but rather a series of reconstructions that are needed in order to depict the different chronological incarnations of this temple.

This paper summarily raises two points about the generalization of the 3D model for the archaeology of ancient buildings: Because an archaeological reconstruction is not definitive but represents our current understanding of the monument based on a synthesis of architectural and archaeological studies, the question of rendering 3D archaeological reconstructions for the public has to be reassessed. On the other hand, the utilization of the CAD system to elaborate the 3D models of these archaeological reconstructions can be a genuine research tool used to validate hypotheses and conduct new investigations, not just produce images for communication.


3D modelling Cultural heritage Bayon Banteay Chhmar Angkor 


  1. Aymonier, Étienne. 1904. Le Cambodge: III. Le groupe dAngkor et son histoire, vol. 3. Paris: E. Leroux.Google Scholar
  2. Cœdès, Georges. 1943. Pour mieux comprendre Angkor. Hanoi: Imprimerie d’Extrême-Orient. Republished 1947, Paris: Publ. du musée Guimet.Google Scholar
  3. Cunin, Olivier. 2000. Le Bayon, contribution à l’histoire architecturale du temple, Mémoire de travail personnel de fin d’étude en architecture, 2 vols. Nancy: École d’Architecture de Nancy.Google Scholar
  4. Cunin, Olivier. 2004. De Ta Prohm au Bayon. Analyse comparative de l’histoire architecturale des principaux monuments du style du Bayon et deux annexes, vol. 1. De Ta Prohm au Bayon. Contribution à l’histoire architecturale du temple du Bayon, vol. 2. PhD diss. Nancy: INPL.Google Scholar
  5. Cunin, Olivier. 2006. “Das Rätsel des Bayon – ein neuer Ansatz.” In Angkor – Göttliches Erbe Kambodschas, Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, edited by Wiebke Lobo, 189–193. München: Prestel.Google Scholar
  6. Cunin, Olivier. 2007. “The Bayon: An Archaeological and Architectural Study.” In Bayon—New Perspectives, edited by Joyce Clark, 136-229. Bangkok: River Books.Google Scholar
  7. Delaporte, Louis. 1880. Voyage au Cambodge, Larchitecture khmer. Paris: Ch. Delagrave Republished 1999, Paris: Maisonneuve et Larose.Google Scholar
  8. Dufour, Henri, Charles Carpeaux, Jean Commaille, and George Cœdès. 1910. Le Bayon d’Angkor Thom: bas-reliefs publiés par les soins de la Commission Archéologique de l’Indochine; d’après les documents recueillis par la Mission Henri Dufour avec la collaboration de Charles Carpeaux. Paris: Ernest Leroux.Google Scholar
  9. Dumarçay, Jacques. 1967. Le Bayon, histoire architecturale du temple: Atlas et notice des planches. MAEFEO, no. 3. Paris: Adrien-Maisonneuve.Google Scholar
  10. Dumarçay, Jacques, and Bernard-Philippe Groslier. 1973. Le Bayon, histoire architecturale du temple & Inscriptions du Bayon. MAEFEO, no. 3. Paris: Adrien-Maisonneuve.Google Scholar
  11. Garnier, Francis. 1873. Voyage dexploration en Indo-chine, effectué pendant les années 1866, 1867 et 1868, 2 vol. Paris: Hachette. Republished 1985, Paris: La Découverte.Google Scholar
  12. Parmentier, Henri. 1927. “Modifications subies par le Bayon au cours de son execution”. Notes darchéologie Indochinoise VIII, BEFEO XXVII: 149-161.Google Scholar
  13. Parmentier, Henri. 1936. “Autres modifications subies par le Bayon au cours de son execution”. Notes darchéologie indochinoise IX, BEFEO XXXVI: 279-286.Google Scholar
  14. Tissandier, Albert. 1896. Cambodge—Java, Ruines khmères et javanaises, 1893–1894. Paris: G. Masson.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Center in Architecture and Engineering, National Architecture School of Nancy, Nancy and CASE (Centre Asie du Sud-Est), CNRS/EHESSParisFrance

Personalised recommendations