3D Image of Hourn Khim Circular Earthwork, Memot

What is a Circular Earthwork?


Circular Earthwork is an earthen circular structure in the red soil area southeast of the Mekong in Cambodia and the adjacent southern region of Vietnam. They consist of an outer wall, an inner ditch and an inner platform. The diameter of the outer walls is between 150 and 300 meters, the structure contains rarely one and mainly two entrances.

The outer rampart of the earthen structure was constructed at the beginning of the occupation.


The nearly complete lack of artifacts in the inner ditch shows that it was at no time used as a dump. The interpretation of the ditch as a water reservoir has also been abandoned, because of the situation that most structures were built on a slight slope, and the great permeability of the red soil. The purpose of the ditch was probably to keep domestic animals within the compound, penned by the dam and the slope toward the inner platform.


On the inner platform of the site, a huge number of artifacts have been found, especially at the semi- or circular elevated edge of the platform closed to the ditch. This area has been identified as the main habitation zone. A palisade may have been built between platform and ditch, perhaps to hinder domestic animals from moving into the settlement.

In contrast, only few finds were discovered at the center of the platform, which was probably not a settlement area, but seems to have been used for another purpose.


The entrance was sometimes constructed as a simple land bridge across the ditch, but more complicated structures are common: A tongue-like extension of the inner platform, together with a similar extension of the wall at the level of the platform and an additional small mound in the middle of the ditch to serve as support for a wooden bridge construction.

Fragments of glass bangles and spindle whorls recovered among other archaeological remains from Krek 52/62 date the site in a time not much older than the middle of the last millennium BC. The analysis of the raw material suggests that the bangles probably originated from South Vietnam. Even without any metal objects found, which is a result of the high acidity of the soil, circular earthworks were probably been occupied at the beginning of the Iron Age.


Circular Earthworks are round villages of dry rice farming communities, surrounded by a ditch for domestic animals and for gardening. The villages were usually not inhabited for a long period: People did shifting cultivation and had to move to other places, when the soil started to be exhausted.


For more information see http://muse.jhu.edu :

ALBRECHT et al.: Asian Perspectives 2000, 39, No. 1-2, 20-46

HAIDLE: Asian Perspectives 2002, 40, No. 2, 195-208

Circular Earthwork Malleret 14, Krek

Excavation at Krek 52/62

Stone Adze and Polisher