The following is taken from the site where you obtained this photo....
The idea that the carving may have been added recently is simply not possible for at least a half-dozen reasons.
1. Patina is still obvious in the recesses.
2. The depth of relief on the carvings that cover every square inch of this column, is more than half an inch. Removing the imagined "original" carving would have left a recessed surface. Then, carving the stegosaur on the recessed surface would require still deeper recesses. The above photograph clearly demonstrates that the carving is not recessed. It is flush with the other carvings. Since the plates on the back of the stegosaur protrude from the recessed background at least half an inch, it would not be possible to add them to the background by subsequent carving. The plates are an integral part of the rock surrounded by a recessed, patina covered background.
3. There is approximately 40 feet of overburden that would have been displaced in order to replace the entire block.
4. The blocks are held together, not with mortar, but with iron "staples" in the shape of a capital "I" typically about 8 inches long, 1.5 inches wide and 3/8 of an inch thick. An inset in the shape of the staple was carved into the surface of two adjoining blocks, across the abutment, one end in one block and the other end in the other. With the staple in the shaped recess, the next tier of blocks holds the staple in place. They are used horizontally and vertically.
5. It may sound presumptuous, but I am trained in petrology. I know rocks. If someone had altered this rock, years after the original carvings, I would see it immediately. It would also be obvious to other experts who have carefully examined this carving (documented below). I can tell you without the slightest doubt, this carving is not modern, it is contemporary with the other carvings of Ta Prohm.
6. It should also be mentioned that the mind-set in Cambodia is very different form ours. The people are still greatly intimidated by governmental authorities. The brutal execution millions for almost any excuse, is vivid in the memory of virtually all adults in this country. Some of the same government officials responsible for the slaughter of perhaps 1/4 of the population are still in power today in this communist dictatorship. Consider this in connection of the fact that dozens of federal police with AK 47's patrol the ruins day and night, daring anyone to deface or take "souvenirs." It is simply not credible to imagine pranksters, defacing and re-carving these "sacred" temples, which are still actively used today for Hindu and Buddhist idol worship.
The Michigan Historical Museum tells of the legendary Me-she-pe-shiw, the "underwater panther" that was a powerful, malicious spirit in the form of a horned mountain lion with a spiny back. It lived in lakes and caused storms by thrashing its tail. We wanted to photograph the petroglyphs that depicted this creature.
As some of the meanings of the pictographs are not known, it is believed that the image in the lower right depicts a canoe carrying people across to the Rock. The larger image above the canoe figure is believed to be that of a Great Water Lynx, termed Mishipashoo in Ojibway. Native legends say that this water spirit inhabits large bodies of water, like Mazinaw Lake. Natives would offer tobacco to this spirit before embarking on a journey across such waters. The tobacco was offered with a prayer to appease this spirit with the hope that it would not whip up itsgreat spiked tail [/size]and tip their canoe.