In 1916, l’Ecole Française d’Extrème Orient (EFEO) appointed Henri Marchal as the second curator of the Angkor Wat conservation project. After years among the ruins, his daughter Sappho Marchal published “Costumes et Parures Khmers: D’apres les Devata D’Angkor-Vat” in 1927. She was 23 years old.
Marchal recorded 1,737 Devata images at Angkor, not counting the towers. In her book, Marchal analyzed many carvings quantitatively by location and features (sample plates above). Marchal is one of the only people to publish a systematic analysis of the carvings recognizing different attributes.
Upon returning to Bangkok, Davis saw Marchal’s book for the first time. Merrily Hansen had just translated the work into English for Orchid Press, reissued in 2005 as “Khmer Costumes and Ornaments of the Devatas of Angkor Wat”.
Upon discovering Marchal’s work, Davis committed himself to continuing Marchal’s task using modern computer technology thereby enabling the first comprehensive analysis of the collection of carvings as a whole. The Devata Database Project has validated 1,796 devata, and with only a few dozen devata on the hight towers missing from the inventory.
In November 2008, Davis returned to Angkor Wat with the Devata Database Team to capture 7,000 high resolution digital images so that work on the database can continue in 2009.