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Claude Jacques

Professor Claude Jacques,
Eminent epigraphist (1929 - 2018)


The World Heritage Site Office of Vat Phou-Champassak and the Ecole Francaise d’Extreme Orient (EFEO) are saddened to announce the death of Professor Claude Jacques in France on February 20, 2018, in his eighty-ninth year.

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After studying in Lyon, Claude Jacques continued his Orientalist studies in Paris. Then he quickly joined the French Institute of Pondicherry (Indology Section), where he remained from 1959 to 1961. In 1959, he met Bernard Philippe Groslier, Curator of Angkor, and member of the EFEO who advised him to invest in the epigraphy of Cambodia, whose master, George Cœdès, is already very old.

Thus, in September 1961, he went to Cambodia as a lecturer at the Faculty of Letters in Phnom Penh. He soon becomes a member of the EFEO.

In 1965, he participated in the creation of the Faculty of Archeology of Phnom Penh and was professor there until 1970, when he left Cambodia for Paris, not without having made a mission of 3 months in Indonesia (May-August 1970) at the request of the EFEO.

Lecturer at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Section of Historical and Philological Sciences) since 1964, he gives his lectures in Phnom Penh, then in Paris; he was elected Director of Studies at the same School in 1973.


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In the early 1990s, the Director-General of Unesco, Federico Mayor, asked him to be his special adviser for Angkor and Cambodia; it remains so until the departure of F. Mayor and then becomes scientific advisor to the Assistant Director-General for Culture at Unesco.

Following his illustrious predecessors, Jean Filliozat, Louis Finot and George Cœdès, he has patiently translated hundreds of inscriptions in Sanskrit, Pali and Old Khmer, whatever their origin, those of Cambodia but also of Thailand, Vietnam and Laos, thus helping to clarify the ancient history of the region.

The Lao Heritage Authorities will entrust him, as soon as possible, with the translation of the inscriptions that will be brought to light in the territory of Laos. In recent years, he has transcribed and translated a large stele found in Vat Phou (installed in the site museum, K. 1320), the dedications of a treasure in gold and silver found in the province of Savannakhet, other inscriptions from the pre-Angkorian period carved on rocks in the mountains around Vat Phou. 

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He was very interested in the very beginning of the history of Vat Phou and was about to review the oldest known inscription of the region (5th century), the stele called "Devanika" (K. 365, visible at museum of Vat Phou), to try to elucidate the mystery of the original country of this king named Devanika, who "came from far away" to found the Ancient City associated with the temple of Vat Phou.

He planned to write an article on this subject and, in collaboration with Dominic Goodall, another epigraphist of the EFEO responsible for the Pondicherry Center (India), prepared a publication on the ancient inscriptions of South Laos ( to be published in 2019).

 In June 2017, Claude Jacques was able to return to the Vat Phou site to participate in the scientific seminar on recent archaeological discoveries around Vat Phou, organized by the EFEO and the World Heritage Site office of Vat Phou, with the financial assistance of FSP and AFD (to see Pictures).

He had presented his latest findings on the inscription "Devanika" and had widely shared his knowledge with the participants throughout the seminar. A short contribution on the same subject is published in the catalog of works of the Museum Collections of Vat Phou Museum. Two notes on special temple developments are also available in English on the Vat Phou website by following this link :Two notes about Vat Phou

The WHSO and the EFEO in Laos extend their condolences to his family and friends.

Other Links

   In Memoriam By EFEO 

    Article dans le journal Le Monde du 26 fevrier 2018

    Bibliographie de Claude Jacques (Site de l'EFEO)

    Claude Jacques sur Clio.fr

    Notice sur Claude Jacques (site de l'EPHE)

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8 Trails around Vat Phou

Archaeological, cultural and natural trails in Champasak district

Map Vat Phou and Around - Pierre Pichard - EFEO - 1992

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