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This year’s excavations at Angkor Wat

A feature on the excavations at Angkor Wat that have just wrapped up, featuring a number of colleagues whom I have had the pleasure of working with over the last few years.

Excavations at Angkor Wat, National Geographic Traveller 20130716

Excavations at Angkor Wat, National Geographic Traveller 20130716

Cambodia: Angkor Wat’s new discovery
National Geographic Traveller, 16 July 2013

While there’s no doubt the majestic monument was a temple-city, there’s always been speculation about the area around it. In recent years, Sydney University’s Dr Damian Evans and Dr Roland Fletcher and French archaeologist Christophe Pottier, after mapping the area over many years using old-fashioned satellite imagery, guessed that a great city sprawled outside Angkor Wat’s walls.

However, it wasn’t until a hi-tech airborne laser survey conducted in April 2012 that was able to penetrate the dense foliage to deliver highly precise data, that the existence of a monumental urban conurbation could be confirmed. My arrival in Siem Reap coincided with the June 2013 public release of a report analysing the research.

As I trudge through the forest with Evans, architect of the groundbreaking project and an author of the report, he points out bumps and depressions on the ground that I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed. Thanks to the data collected, digital images of the terrain clearly reveal for the first time detailed traces of a sophisticated, highly engineered metropolis surrounding Angkor Wat.

Now it’s up to the young archaeologists in the trenches, digging up remnants of the civilization — from floor tiles to pottery shards — to figure out who lived in the city and how they lived. Were they priests, temple staff, artisans, or Apsara dancers? Did they live there permanently or only camp out during temple ceremonies and festivals? And what happened to them?

Full story here.

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