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Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Tah Prohm Temple and the "dino" carving - So what do I think

As I have mentioned before, I'm not religious, and I certainly don't believe in the "young earth" theory that many Christian creationist believe in. I'm also not a believer in living dinosaurs. I don't think a pleisiosaur lives in Loch Ness or any other lake or sea for that matter. I don't think Mokele Mbembe is a sauropod that chases hippos in the Congo. I don't believe that the Ropen in Papua New Guinea is a flying dinosaur, (especially the glowing one). And I certainly don't believe that any dinosaurs species that lived 60 million years ago are still hanging about today.

The problem with believing that the earth is only a few thousand years old, gives the creationists a bit of a hurdle to clear. That hurdle is the fossils of giant creatures. They need to be able to explain away the fossils, and the only way they can do so, is to claim they were created in the biblical flood. But by doing so, it means that humans were there too. They need desperately to find evidence, any evidence, that could place a human next to a dinosaur. Unfortunately instead of going were the evidence takes them and then creating a theory, they have the theory first and are then are forced to look for evidence that fits their theory.

But this should not distract anyone from looking at any evidence of living dino's that comes to light.

So what do I make of the alleged Stegosaurus carving?

We really have three possibilities.

1. It's a carving of an unknown species of dinosaur, similar to those that lived 65 million years or more ago.

2. It's a carving of a known living species of animal, but as yet has not been correctly identified.

3. It's a hoax created by a very skillful mason, for reasons unknown.

The temple at Tah Prohm was built in the late 12th and early 13th centuries, by the Khmer King Jayavarman VII. After the fall of the Khmer emoire in the 15th century, it was abandoned. Although other temples in the region were conserved and restored in the early 20th century, it was decided to leave this temple as it was, apart from some stabilisation and access work. As of 2010, however, it seems authorities have started to take a more agressive approach to restoration. All the plants and shrubs have been cleared from the site and some of trees are also getting removed. A crane has been erected and a large amount of building work is underway to restore the temple, with much of the work seemingly just rebuilding the temple from scratch as at other sites. Wooden walkways, platforms, and roped railings have been put in place around the site.

Now I would like to point out at this juncture that the temple was used as a location for the "Tomb Raider" film in 2000. Something I will come back to later.

So is it a dinosaur? Well at first glance it does look like one of those cartoon dinosaurs you see in films and books. But looking closely, it doesn't seem to match any known species. It appears to have the head and body of ceratopsid dinosaur, but without any of the horns. The tail of a saurapod, and the plating of a stegasaurus.

Critics will say, as it's not anotomically correct it can't be a dinosaur, and those plates on its back are not plates but leaves or plants. After all there are similar depictions of leaves around other carvings of animals.

Except there isn't. Yes there are leaves on other carvings, but none as uniform in shape size or number as in this carving. But it still doesn't prove they are not decorative leaves.

Unfortunately this leaves us with a dilemma. Either they are plates on the animals back, which puts us in the dino camp, or leaves which put us in the known animal camp.

So if it is not a dinosaur, then what animal could it be? I've heard people claim it is a rhino. But then we have to make the same obsevations that we subjected the dinosaur theory to. If it is a rhino, then where is it's horn. Asian rhino's may have small horns but they are certainly a feature that any carver would show. And yet again the tail is all wrong. it's much too long and thick. Another possibilty is a wild pig. Yes the body and head seems to be similar, but yet again the tail poses a problem. In fact the tail poses a problem for most theories concerning mammals. However if the creature was a lizard of some sort, then the tail would be possible. To be honest, no matter which way you look at the animal, there is no creature either past or present that fits the carving entirely.

So we are left with the hoax. Now we come back to the filming of Tomb Raider. There is no doubt that the film crew did some amount of rebuilding work at the temple during filming. And there have been internet rumours that one of the production crew carved the stone as an in-joke, but realised in hind sight that if they actually admitted they done so in public, they may be liable to prosecution from the authorities for defacing an ancient monument. But yet again, we stumble, because these are just rumours, there is no evidence. Yes there were masons on site, and yes the production team certainly had the technical ability to do this carving. But we still can't confirm it either way. However Tomb Raider was filmed in 2000 which is a problem for this theory as a book "Ancient Angkor" was published in 1999, and the carving is mentioned in that book.

One of the problems we have is that although there are numerous carvings of other animals, several many times over, we only have this one single carving of this creature. Why only one, when other animals are repeated elsewhere. Why is this creature not found on carvings in other temples in the area. This makes me think that it is not an original carving.

Now one interesting fact, is that the block that contains the carving is of a different colour to the rest of the column. This has been explained away, by creationists amongst others, claimng that the person who first found it and photographed it "cleaned" it up. Of course yet again, we have no proof of this, only someones word.

However as these picture show, there are definite "joins" to the right of the block that don't match the blocks above and below,

Now I just can't get away from the differences in the block from the ones above and below. Something just doesn't feel right. Has it been replaced or repaired or altered. I just don't know for sure. Again we just don't have the proof.

So all in all, what do I think.

Well my gut feeling is that it's a hoax, perputrated by persons unknown for reasons unknown.

BUT...........putting my investigative head on, I've got to say the case has to be left wide open. I can't see any definitive proof that confirms or denies any of the three possibilities.

All through my posts, you will see an ongoing thread regarding the need for proof. This is no different. People can of course make up their own minds as to what the animal is, and how it got there, but none of us have the proof that could allow us to state, "I know the answer"

or of course it could just be the great cosmic joker on another of his wind-ups.


  1. I'm not fully aware of the history on this situation, but has anybody been to the location to verify this exists?

    Looking at the exif info on the first photo above, it appears this image was taken on 18/01/2007 20:05 using an Nikon E7900 and was past through Adobe Photoshop CS for a mac.

    I agree, the colour distorion from this middle block to the others seems off.

    Thank you for the time scale post on your Loch Ness article. I'll check back at the end of this month.

  2. Yes, I personally went to Ta Prohm in the summer of 2009 and took photos of the carvings myself. THT has put some of my photos on his blog, and they are also on one of my facebook albums. Look me up - David Prentice

  3. Richard Ashworth5 May 2010 at 19:01

    Cheers for the blog! Interesting stuff, I'm going for the animal known to modern science option, maybe a chameleon or similar.


  4. For a detailed analysis of the case please see my recently posted article at: