Well of Shadows – Krong Battambang, Cambodia - Atlas Obscura

Well of Shadows

A gruesome memorial for those lost in this area during the Khmer Rouge genocide. 


The Well of Shadows is a memorial for those lost in this area during the Cambodian genocide at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. At the top, skulls of the dead are encased in a glass box—at the bottom, bas-reliefs depict the horrors that took place in the woods and rice fields surrounding the memorial. 

The victims commemorated by this memorial were held at a nearby temple which was seized by the Khmer Rouge and turned into a prison. An estimated 10,000 people were killed there, of the estimated 1.5-2 million deaths that occurred between 1975 and 1979.

Reliquaries such as this, displaying the skulls and bones of victims that have been found, dot the country. These remains ask us to remember the atrocities committed. The bas-reliefs circling the bottom of the memorial are more unique. They illustrate in detail the particulars of different ways in which men, women, and children were tortured and killed. While the piles of remains show us the sheer numbers, these images bring home the horrors in vivid detail. 

The inscription on the memorial, with characteristically Cambodian optimism, reads, “The full extent of Cambodia’s tragedy will never be known. The remains of some of the victims of this genocide may never be recovered, nor their murderers identified. But the gentle and forgiving Khmer are energetic and optimistic people and will now walk confidently through the well of shadows to reclaim their ancient culture and restore this beautiful land to become again, the legendary paradise of celestial Apsaras.”

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6 kilometres north of Battambang, on the east side of the Sangkar River

In partnership with KAYAK

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