BBC Documentary on Angkor

Angkor Wat Lidar Source: Khmer Archaeology Lidar Consortium

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.

Angkor Wat Lidar Source: Khmer Archaeology Lidar Consortium
Angkor Wat Lidar Source: Khmer Archaeology Lidar Consortium

Beyond Angkor: How lasers revealed a lost city
BBC News, 23 September 2014

Jungle Atlantis
(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.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

3 thoughts on “BBC Documentary on Angkor”

  1. The BBC documentary of Angkor and LiDAR part 2 was aired and as expected it is BBC quality, very well done. However, it provides very little information on this “thing” called LiDAR. How the LiDAR project was planned, how the systems were setup, the flight plan designed and how the technology was managed to acquire billions of very accurate data points over angkor and the other archaeological sites and provide the minute detail and change in terrain elevations that allow the team of archaeologists to do the interpretation and analysis of the data and arrive at the far reaching conclusions on Khmer civilization.

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