The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 10 No. 7 - November 11, 2009


Angkor Wat under the lens on Anna Maria

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

One of the 1,780 ornately ornamented
women portrayed on the temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia,
which Anna Maria Island resident Kent Davis is researching.

HOLMES BEACH – Anna Maria Island is home to one of the world’s few researchers on a Buddhist temple half a world and nine centuries away.

Kent Davis, former owner with his Thai wife of Siam Gardens in Anna Maria, is captivated by the women of Angkor Wat, a temple in Cambodia that he says is the largest religious structure in the world.

Originally a Hindu shrine, now a Buddhist temple, it is five times the size of the Vatican in Rome, he told about 40 members of the Artists’ Guild of Anna Maria Island at the Episcopal Church of the Annunciation on Nov. 2.

But while most women portrayed in Vatican art can be identified by contemporaneous writings, the “Daughters of Angkor Wat,” as he calls them, remain unknown.

The 1,780 very different women are portrayed in stone, scantily dressed and heavily decorated with different jewelry, headdresses, flowers, fruits and other distinctions that have been the subject of his research since he visited in 2005.

“I was not prepared for the temple’s human side,” said Davis, who gave the presentation four years to the day from his visit to the temple on the night of a full moon.

With his photographs of each woman to guide him, he is on an Indiana Jones-style quest to track down who the women were, what they represent and why they were so important to the Khmer Empire, which built the moat-enclosed monument between 1116 and 1150. The empire, which disappeared into the remote Cambodian jungle, was not a precursor to the Khmer Rouge, the “red” regime responsible for the genocides of 1.7 million people in the late 1970s, Davis said.

Built to represent the home of the gods in Hindu mythology, the temple’s architecture contains information on the seasons, the calendar and astronomical events, he said.

But the overwhelming presence of the women’s images, with little having been written about them, is a mystery demanding investigation, he said.

Their importance is evident, especially considering that the image of the king who commissioned the building of the temple has an inconspicuous place in the temple, he said. But few have studied the subject, with only a handful of books written on the women, who may represent goddesses.

Davis is compiling a database about the women and plans to publish it, but the ending of what he calls “the world’s greatest archaeological mystery” has not yet been written. His research can be found at

Students celebrate Veteran's Day

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT Marine Corps veteran Ralph Bassett
tells fifth-graders about his service in the Korean War.

HOLMES BEACH – Fifth-graders at Anna Maria Elementary School celebrated Veteran’s Day early last Friday with four local military veterans.

Three of the four veterans represented a branch of the military while the fourth veteran narrated a program about what veterans represent and another about the history of the American flag.

After leading everyone on a pledge to the flag, American Legion Kirby Stewart Post 24 Honor Guard member Larry Fowler spoke about the importance of honoring the men and women who fought to protect our country.

“One of the greatest losses you can have is not knowing how you got here with the freedoms you are allowed,” he told the students.

Then with the assistance of the school’s honor guard, Fowler narrated a history of flags that represented America from its days as a British colony through its fight for independence and to the American flag as it stands today.

Remember, the flag represents all of us,” he told them.

Then the students reassembled into their three classes, each on visiting with one of the veterans at a table.

Dick Herman, an Army veteran of World War II in Europe, told them about his battles against the Germans.

Jim Dunne, who spent three years at sea and 33 years of active and reserve service in the U.S. Navy, spoke about his exploits in World War II and Korea. He brought a picture of the destroyer on which he served, the USS Sullivans, named for George, Francis, Madison, Joseph and Albert, the Sullivan brothers who died when their ship, USS Juneau, sank after being torpedoed by a Japanese submarine during the battle for Guadalcanal on Nov. 13, 1942.

Ralph Bassett, a Marine Corps veteran of Korea, brought medals he earned and picture of himself in uniform while he was on active duty.

All three of the veterans answered questions from the kids.

“This is great,” said AME Guidance counselor Cindi Harrison. “We haven’t done this in a few years, and it’s something that should be done so that our students can learn more about the people who fought for our freedom.”

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