TURIN, ITALY — The European Renaissance (Rinascimento) began in 14th century Italy. Now, 21st century Italians are learning about Khmer contributions to world art and culture in their native language thanks to Cultor.org presenting Angkor Wat research in Italian.
Founded by the University of Turin in 1999, Cultor — an acronym for Cultura Torino — now provides exceptional cultural resources online at Cultor.org. Their extensive Internet resource has become one of the most important cultural websites in Europe with more than 18,000 visitors each month. Recently, Cultor.org began translating original research about the Khmer civilization from Devata.org. Devata focuses on investigating the sacred women depicted at Angkor Wat, a 12th century Hindu temple located in northern Cambodia. The vast Angkor area is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Angkor Wat fascinates archeologists and tourists alike, yet the temples most amazing treasure remained unexamined. According to Devata.org founder Kent Davis: “Angkor Wat contains the most extraordinary ancient portrait gallery in the world, and every subject honored is a woman.” Throughout the immense stone building, Davis has cataloged 1,796 individual Asian women who appear in highly detailed full-body carvings. They are now called devata or apsaras — Sanskrit terms for heavenly maidens of great beauty and elegance — but no one knows what the ancient Khmer people called them or what roles they served in the society. Who were they? Why did designers choose only women to dominate their greatest temples? No one knows. When the civilization collapsed, its people vanished without leaving any written records about Angkor Wat’s design or meaning.
Devata.org founder Kent Davis fully supports the Cultor exchange saying “Italian sculptors have rendered and appreciated classic human forms in stone for millennia. To me, this makes Italian scholars and students ideal observers to consider the refined women of Angkor Wat. I look forward to hearing their opinions after reading about this mystery in their own language.” According to Cultor.org’s manager of media relations, Enzo Di Gesù, Cultor is an organization of scholars, independent of political and religious beliefs, seeking to disseminate information on the history, art and aesthetics of cultures around the world. The online environment allows Cultor to emphasize both academic and artistic aspects in their virtual exhibitions.