Home / History  / Hidden Paintings revealed at Angkor Wat

Hidden Paintings revealed at Angkor Wat

There are still some secrets hidden at Angkor Wat Temple. New digitally enhanced images revealing detailed murals depicting elephants, deities, orchestral ensembles, and people riding horses are the most recent proof.

The catch is they’re invisible to the naked eye.

New digitally enhanced images from Angkor Wat are invisible to the naked eye

Elephants that were recently discovered by digitally enhanced images but are invisible to the human eye (Photo courtesy of www.livescience.com)

Millions of visitors each year travel to Angkor Wat and marvel at 900-year-old towers, a giant moat, and the shallow relief sculptures of Hindu gods. Yet, unbeknownst to them there are 200 hidden paintings throughout temple walls.

Foxnews has reported that many of the faded markings could be graffiti made by pilgrims after Angkor Wat was abandoned in the 15th century. However, more elaborate paintings maybe the earliest attempts made to restore the temple.

“Another set of paintings discovered from this study are so schematic and elaborate that they are likely not random graffiti, but an attempt to decorate the walls of the temple,” said rock-art researcher Noel Hidalgo Tan.

Angkor Wat was built between A.D. 1113 and 1150, Angkor Wat stood at the center of Angkor, the capital of the Khmer empire. It originally served as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu, but was transformed into a Buddhist temple in late 14th century.

“The paintings found at Angkor Wat seem to belong to a specific phase of the temple’s history in the 16th century A.D. when it was converted from a Vishnavaite Hindu use to Theravada Buddhist,” wrote Hidalgo Tan.

Angkor Wat is already famous for it’s  spectacular bas-relief friezes that show ceremonial and religious scenes, so the newly uncovered images only increase its importance.

The map of the temple below shows, in red, where the newly found images were located.

Angkor Wat temple layout highlights in red where new murals were found

Angkor Wat temple layout. The red highlights depict where the new images were found. (Image courtesy of news.discovery.com)

“Some of the most detailed paintings, the ones located at the top of the temple, are passed by literally thousands of visistors every day, but the most elaborate scenes are effectively invisible to the naked eye,”  Hidalgo Tan stated in an interview with the same news source.

Christopher Pottier, an archaeologist and co-director of the Greater Angkor Project, who was not involved in the newest study but had some words to say about the findings stated:

” I am very pleased, because the traces identified are quite diverse, lively, and original, most of the paintings that were previously known depicted boats and floral and geometric designs.”

Angkor Wat murals recently uncovered by digitally enhanced photography

(Enhanced) The Khmer Pinpeat, a musical ensemble made up af various instruments like gongs, drums, wnd instruments and xylophones. ( Photo courtesy of www.livescience.com)


Matt Robertson obtained a BA in History from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and an MA in Museum Studies from Morgan State University in Baltimore. Robertson's a major sports enthusiast, avid golfer, passionate Jets fan and enjoys surfing. He's also a talented barista. Follow him on Facebook/MattRobertson and on Instagram @gingerbeardedbarista.

Review overview