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Ethnic minority architecture

Outside the cities, both ethnic Khmer and ethnic Cham live in villages of 20-150 stilted single-roomed houses with exterior and partition walls made of palm mats or wood, and floors of woven bamboo strips resting on bamboo joists.1

Located in river valleys or on hillsides in stilted or part-stilted houses of wood and/or bamboo with thatched roofs, the houses of Cambodia’s Pearic communities differ little from this model. Small villages of 20-60 square, mainly single-roomed houses, often clustered around a communal house, can accommodate anything up to 150 families.

Traditionally the Bahnaric-speaking Brau, Lamam, Kaco, Tampuan and Stieng peoples, Katuic-speaking Kui peoples and Austronesian or Malay-Polynesian speaking Jarai and Rhade peoples built tall-roofed long houses measuring hundreds of metres in length, which provided living quarters for numerous extended families. Today such long houses have mostly been replaced by smaller, individual dwellings grouped in clusters of between 20 and 100, although some larger houses measuring up to 30 or 40 metres in length with high roofs decorated with wooden sculptures may still be found in2 remoter Jarai, Rhade and Stieng communities.

Traditional houses constructed by the Bahnaric-speaking Pnong community are characterised by their low thatched roofs which reach almost to the ground. Today most Pnong families prefer to live in Khmer-style houses, but it is still common to find additional temporary accommodation being constructed in traditional Pnong style on the family chamka (small vegetable farm).

A common feature of many ethnic minority villages is the bamboo spirit gate which marks the boundary of the village. A buffalo-sacrificing ground may often be found nearby.

Both Mon-Khmer and Malay-Polynesian ethnic groups are known for their elaborately decorated funeral houses. Surrounded by wooden statues or totems, these play an important role in facilitating the passage of the dead to the spirit world.

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