Archaeologists in Cambodia have found multiple, previously undocumented medieval cities near ancient temple city of Angkor Wat in the north-west of Cambodia. The newly found settlements are estimated to be between 900 and 1,400 years old and some these cities look to be as large as the capital city, Phnom Penh.
Lidar technology was used to survey the landscape. This laser technology can filter out surface vegetation to reveal hidden details in the shape of the terrain. These details and patterns can reveal the sites of ancient civilizations and infrastructure.
The Australian archaeologist Dr Damian Evans said: “We have entire cities discovered beneath the forest that no one knew were there – at Preah Khan of Kompong Svay and, it turns out, we uncovered only a part of Mahendraparvata on Phnom Kulen [in the 2012 survey] … this time we got the whole deal and it’s big, the size of Phnom Penh big.”
A researcher at Siem Reap’s École Française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO) and the architect of the Cambodian Archaeological Lidar Initiative (Cali), Evans will speak at the Royal Geographic Society in London about the findings on Monday.
“Our coverage of the post-Angkorian capitals also provides some fascinating new insights on the ‘collapse’ of Angkor,” Evans said. “There’s an idea that somehow the Thais invaded and everyone fled down south – that didn’t happen, there are no cities [revealed by the aerial survey] that they fled to. It calls into question the whole notion of an Angkorian collapse.”
Climate change and water management might have played a role in that process – rather than another invading army – and the scans put together by Evans show an elaborate network of water systems that look to have been built hundreds of years before this sort of technology was thought to exist.
“These airborne laser discoveries mark the greatest advance in the past 50 or even 100 years of our knowledge of Angkorian civilisation,” archaeologist Michael Coe from Yale University, who wasn’t involved in the research, told The Guardian.