Last week the BBC broadcast its documentary Jungle Atlantis, featuring some of my colleagues working in Angkor. The focus was on the data that was revealed through Lidar, uncovering an extensive network of roads, buildings and features beneath the jungle surface.
Beyond Angkor: How lasers revealed a lost city
BBC News, 23 September 2014
(Watch on iView)
At its peak, in the late 12th Century, Angkor was a bustling metropolis covering 1,000 sq km. (It would be another 700 years before London reached a similar size.)
Angkor was once the capital of the mighty Khmer empire which, ruled by warrior kings, dominated the region for centuries – covering all of present-day Cambodia and much of Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar. But its origins and birthplace have long been shrouded in mystery.
A few meagre inscriptions suggested the empire was founded in the early 9th Century by a great king, Jayavarman II, and that his original capital, Mahendraparvata, was somewhere in the Kulen hills, a forested plateau north-east of the site on which Angkor would later be built.
But no-one knew for sure – until the lidar team arrived.
The lidar survey of the hills revealed ghostly outlines on the forest floor of unknown temples and an elaborate and utterly unexpected grid of ceremonial boulevards, dykes and man-made ponds – a lost city, found.