Phu Pha Phueng Ancient Quarry

On the edge of the Phu Phan Mountains 23km from Sakon Nakhon City, the Phu Pha Phueng Ancient Quarry (แหล่งหินตัดภูผาผึ้ง) is assumed to have provided most of the sandstone for the Khmer temples built in the city and around Nong Han lake. While the Doi Hin Ngam quarry west of the city is much closer, rock from Phu Pha Phueng could be easily rafted down the nearby Nam Phung River to the lake.

Nam Phung River

It’s low-conglomerate sandstone, excellent for carving. And like many, if not most, Khmer quarries, the Dvaravati people likely also extracted stone here for making bai sema boundary markers, many of which have been found around Sakon Nakhon.

blocks in quarry

The widespread site lies below Wat Tham Phu Pha Pueng. First stop should be the Mae Takian (a popular Thai goddess who resides in ironwood trees and is renowned for revealing winning lottery numbers) shrine two hundred meters up the temple’s entrance road. Besides the sacred ironwood logs, there is some wood that was taken out of the river in 2019. The local theory, favored by the temple’s abbot, is that it was a frame from an old-style Thai So-style stupa. But based on the cuts, the fact that stupas in Thailand are almost always made of brick, and that the wood was found in a river, a bridge seems much more likely. A Khmer pot and many fragments found around the area are part of the shrine.

distant view of shrine
logs in shrine
closeup view of shrine
basket filled with one complete pot and pottery shards

A few quarried building blocks can be found around the shrine, but the main cutting site is 75 meters to the east. It’s possible to walk directly there, but it’s easier to find it by following the dirt road along the tapioca field and then turning right on a less-used path for another fifty or so meters.

trail through forest
distant view of quarry
blocks in quarry

Here there are dozens of ancient blocks abandoned in the midst of extraction with the carving marks clearly visible. The grooves between the blocks, it’s widely assumed, were filled with wood and water and a few days of slow expansion would have cracked the block off its base.

blocks in quarry
blocks in quarry
blocks in quarry
blocks in quarry
blocks in quarry

Other cuttings are scattered around the forests here, mostly to the southeast toward the river, but are hard to find if you don’t have someone to show you where they are.

blocks in quarry

There are no cutting sites around the temple buildings, one and a half kilometers up a fairly rough dirt and sand road from the Mae Takian shrine. But if you find the friendly abbot unoccupied, he’s happy to show you a Khmer pot kept on the floor under a glass case that holds some not-so-old metal tools (found in the river) and another pot of indeterminate age.

case with pot and tools
pot on floor

Location – Wat Tham Phu Pha Pueng, Tambon Na Tan, Amphoe Tao Ngoi, Sakon Nakhon Province
Other Names – Dan Tam Phra Ancient Quarry (แหล่งหินตัดดานถ้ำพระ), แหล่งตัดหินภูผาผึ้ง

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