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The Hidden City of Angkor Wat
Science Magazine ^ | 6-20-2013 | Richard Stone

Posted on 06/21/2013 7:07:41 AM PDT by Renfield

In the year 802 C.E., the founder of the medieval Khmer empire, Jayavarman II, anointed himself "king of the world." In laying claim to such a grandiose title, he was a little ahead of his time: It would be another few centuries before the Khmers built Earth's largest religious monument, Angkor Wat, the crowning glory of a kingdom that stood in what is today northwestern Cambodia. But Jayavarman II had good reason to believe that his nascent kingdom, in the sacred Kulen hills northeast of Angkor, was a record-holder. Airborne laser scanning technology, or LiDAR, has revealed the imprint of a vast urban landscape hidden in the Kulen's jungle and in the lowlands surrounding Angkor Wat; by the 13th century, the low-density cityscape covered an area of about 1000 square kilometers.

The findings show that the cityscape at the heart of the Khmer Empire of the 9th to 15th centuries C.E. was much more sprawling and complex than archaeologists realized and lend weight to the hypothesis that, strained by climate change, the complexity of the kingdom's vast waterworks was its ultimate undoing. The LiDAR revelations are "astonishing," says Roland Fletcher, an archaeologist at the University of Sydney in Australia and a member of the international team whose findings are in press at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

At its height, the medieval Khmer empire encompassed much of modern-day Cambodia, central Thailand, and southern Vietnam. Archaeologists have long inferred that Angkor was the most extensive city of its kind in the preindustrial world. Its singular achievement was a complicated network of waterways and reservoirs that were apparently vital to producing enough rice to sustain a population that in the center's heyday numbered in the hundreds of thousands.

Through painstaking ground and aerial surveys and excavations, Fletcher and colleagues in recent years have uncovered evidence that Angkor's waterworks began to break down around the time that the kingdom faded from the historical record. "Things are going wrong by the 1300s," Fletcher says. Signs of severe distress include massive sand deposits in canals and the ruins of a spillway that the Khmers may have ripped apart themselves. In 2009, tree ring data indicated a potential culprit: a decades-long period of megamonsoons and droughts in Southeast Asia in the 14th century.

To get a better understanding of Angkor's urban landscape, Fletcher's colleague at Sydney, Damian Evans, turned to LiDAR, an instrument that a few years ago mapped hidden features of medieval Mayan ruins in Central America. Using a helicopter for just 20 hours of flight time in April 2012, a consortium put together by Evans imaged 370 square kilometers of terrain, encompassing Angkor and two nearby temple complexes, Phnom Kulen and Koh Ker. LiDAR laid bare the imprints of a 9th century city on the Kulen, known from inscriptions as Mahendraparvata. "We found the great early capital of the Khmer empire," Fletcher says. "The discovery of this early Angkorian city is a very exciting example of LiDAR's use in the region," adds Miriam Stark, an anthropologist at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, who has recently started to conduct research at Angkor but was not involved in last year's LiDAR campaign.

The LiDAR survey also showed that the medieval settlements at Phnom Kulen and Koh Ker had extensive hydraulic engineering on a scale comparable to Angkor, showing a much wider reliance on water management systems "to ameliorate annual-scale variation in monsoon rains and ensure food security," the team reports. The LiDAR readings also uncovered cryptic coil-shaped rectilinear embankments covering several hectares near Angkor Wat. "It was an unbelievable surprise," Fletcher says. "Nothing like them had been seen before in Khmer architecture." He speculates that they had some role in farming, but for now their function remains a mystery.

The LiDAR data also add weight to the idea that Angkor's complicated waterworks unraveled. It uncovered "very serious" erosion in parts of the ancient city that, Fletcher believes, accounts for the deep sand deposits documented in the team's excavations.


TOPICS: Agriculture; History; Science
KEYWORDS: angkorwat; archaeology; australia; cambodia; godsgravesglyphs; irrigation

1 posted on 06/21/2013 7:07:41 AM PDT by Renfield
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To: SunkenCiv

Ping


2 posted on 06/21/2013 7:07:55 AM PDT by Renfield (Turning apples into venison since 1999!)
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Comment #3 Removed by Moderator

To: Renfield

angkor who?


4 posted on 06/21/2013 7:14:42 AM PDT by schm0e ("we are in the midst of a coup.")
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To: Renfield

The Angkor Wat temples are fascinating... I’d love to travel there to Cambodia to see them.


5 posted on 06/21/2013 7:17:38 AM PDT by ScottinVA ( Liberal is to patriotism as Kermit Gosnell is to neonatal care.)
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To: Renfield
In 2009, tree ring data indicated a potential culprit: a decades-long period of megamonsoons and droughts in Southeast Asia in the 14th century.

Another version of this story glibly phrases it as "deforestation".

6 posted on 06/21/2013 7:33:56 AM PDT by Teacher317 (Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast)
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To: ScottinVA

Our son and wife are in Thailand this week and plan a visit to this Cambodian site in the next few days.


7 posted on 06/21/2013 7:42:04 AM PDT by Eric in the Ozarks (NRA Life Member)
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To: Renfield

If you happen around the Danang area, the Cham temples at My Son are very cool and date from around the same period.


8 posted on 06/21/2013 7:42:36 AM PDT by onedoug
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To: Renfield
“802 C.E” I guess that is Common Era, which began WHEN With Christ! Why not write “AD” as the Libs MUST trace this to AD when asked. Could it be that common era is the 33 years when Christ lived?

Oh, by the same “BS” they use BCE instead of BC. Isn't that a waste of their beloved paper, to say noting of the extravagant use of ink. If we still wrote with quills, they'd sacrifice their beloved spotted owl to write the added unnecessary letter.

9 posted on 06/21/2013 8:02:19 AM PDT by Tuketu (The Dim Platform is splinters bound by crazy glue. We need a solvent)
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To: Tuketu

Simple.
BCE = Before Christ (or Christian) Era
CE = Christian Era

No problem.


10 posted on 06/21/2013 8:19:35 AM PDT by pajama pundit ("SIN is not a family value either")
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To: Renfield

I didn’t know what C.E. stood for. I guess they are removing BC (now BCE) and AD (now CE)from everything. And Christmas will be Xmas, and Easter will be Spring Festival, and...


11 posted on 06/21/2013 8:19:52 AM PDT by wattsgnu
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To: schm0e

No, Who’s on first.


12 posted on 06/21/2013 10:14:32 AM PDT by I-ambush (Don't let it bring you down, it's only castles burning.)
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To: Renfield; StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; decimon; 1010RD; 21twelve; 24Karet; ...

 GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother & Ernest_at_the_Beach
Thanks Renfield. Angkor's a Wat me boys...

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.


13 posted on 06/21/2013 9:23:50 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (McCain or Romney would have been worse, if you're a dumb ass.)
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To: Renfield
Aerial view of Angkor Wat:


14 posted on 06/21/2013 9:38:38 PM PDT by Fred Nerks (Fair Dinkum!)
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To: Fred Nerks

I want to go there.


15 posted on 06/21/2013 9:40:05 PM PDT by little jeremiah (Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point. CSLewis)
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To: Fred Nerks
Thailand fascinates me and not for the reasons it fascinated David Carradine or Japanese sex tourists.

John Burdett has written three or four novels adapting the detective genre to modern Thailand. They are really good if you like detectives and crime stories.

I eat Pad Thai almost every day.

I would rather watch street food vendor videos on You Tube than anything on schlock American television.

The Thai music is so peaceful.

That picture blows me away and makes me want to go there.

16 posted on 06/21/2013 9:51:03 PM PDT by metafugitive
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To: metafugitive; little jeremiah
There must have been a huge population in that region, to have created such an incredible structure, and so many waterways for agricultural irrigation.

There's an image on the following webpage that shows how extensive it all was:

GREAT ANGKOR:IMAGES LINK HERE

17 posted on 06/22/2013 12:17:28 AM PDT by Fred Nerks (Fair Dinkum!)
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To: Fred Nerks

Kaspersky threw a chit fit about malicious url something or other and blocked it... Beware!


18 posted on 06/22/2013 10:02:10 AM PDT by JDoutrider
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To: Eric in the Ozarks

I had a ticket to travel to Cambodia from Thailand, a couple years ago.

I was so exhausted by the time I got to Thailand I up and canceled the Cambodia leg. Still haven’t made it.

Still want to go.


19 posted on 06/22/2013 10:05:52 AM PDT by Cringing Negativism Network
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To: Cringing Negativism Network
Son is 37. Wife is 31.
They climbed in Nepal last year.

Obviously, they have the legs for it.

20 posted on 06/22/2013 10:07:51 AM PDT by Eric in the Ozarks (NRA Life Member)
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To: Eric in the Ozarks

Yeah.

I also made the mistake of booking the Cambodia leg immediately following the Thailand flight.

So I was to continue on. A couple hours delay in BKK at the airport then on to Phnom Penh. I’m not out of shape (not badly anyway) but hadn’t even considered I should put a day or so in between the two flights.

I’m sure they’re fine. Just commenting is all.

Still considering another visit, to tell the truth.

:D


21 posted on 06/22/2013 10:15:41 AM PDT by Cringing Negativism Network
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To: Cringing Negativism Network

I was there. It ain’t fun. (and no, not in Christmas of 1969.).


22 posted on 06/22/2013 10:25:34 AM PDT by Safetgiver ( Islam makes barbarism look genteel.)
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To: Cringing Negativism Network
Our couple are resting up at a Bangkok hotel before setting out to see the sights. We've received a couple of text photos w/ golden temple backgrounds...
23 posted on 06/22/2013 7:24:10 PM PDT by Eric in the Ozarks (NRA Life Member)
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To: Eric in the Ozarks

I’m sort of jealous.

I know it’s quite hot there now, but still am.

Thanks for the response!


24 posted on 06/23/2013 6:13:17 AM PDT by Cringing Negativism Network
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To: sauropod

.


25 posted on 06/23/2013 6:22:54 AM PDT by sauropod (Fat Bottomed Girl: "What difference, at this point, does it make?")
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To: pajama pundit

I’ll go with that. Wish I was back in college to jam that up a prof’s arse. LOL “CE” Cristian Era, love it.


26 posted on 06/24/2013 8:58:25 AM PDT by Tuketu (The Dim Platform is splinters bound by crazy glue. We need a solvent)
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To: Renfield; SunkenCiv
We finally made it to Angkor last year and it was worth the journey. It's one of the most incredible places on Earth. We hired a guide which I highly recommend. Not only because of the personal tour but also because Cambodia is very corrupt and he took care of the bribes and vigorish.

Unfortunately, only the sacred places were built in stone. The city, including the royal palace, were built of wood, long since gone. This article fits with the story we were told of a once vast city. You can still see some of the waterworks.

The current belief is Angkor was abandoned because it was too vulnerable to attack from the resurgent Thai kingdom based in Ayutthaya, so they retreated to Phnom Penh.

If you go, be sure to take in the "Tomb Raider" temple. The tree roots are so intertwined with the building that it is not being completely restored. It is something straight out of Indiana Jones. Parts of the Tomb Raider movie were filmed there.

I agree with the comments about not trying to do too much on arrival in Bangkok. Even a nonstop is a long flight. Take a recovery day. Even though Bangkok is congested and smoggy, there are fascinating sights in their own right like the old Royal Palace complex and Wat Po temple. Plus, there is great dining. Pick your price point. One of the best meals I've had in Thailand I got for under $2 in a street noodle joint in Chaing Mai.

27 posted on 06/24/2013 12:33:10 PM PDT by colorado tanker
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