Groslier's thesis on Angkor's fall gains credence

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04 September 2007 (University of New South Wales) – 50 years ago, French archaeologist Bernard-Philippe Groslier’s theorised that Angkor’s sudden abandonment was due to a massive failure in the city’s water management system. The theory was not widely accepted due to lack of empirical evidence, but the map of Angkor’s spawl that broke two weeks ago has made it timely to give Groslier’s theory another relook.

Architects of Angkor’s downfall

The architects of Cambodia’s famed Angkor – the world’s most extensive medieval “hydraulic city” – unwittingly engineered its environmental collapse, says research by UNSW scientists and a team of international scholars.

This revelation, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, supports a disputed hypothesis by French archaeologist Bernard-Philippe Groslier, who 50 years ago suggested that the vast medieval settlement of Angkor was defined, sustained, and ultimately overwhelmed by over-exploitation and the environmental impacts of a complex water-management network.

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A city ahead of its time

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14 August 2007 (LA Times) – For any civilisation to thrive, the city must be located near a water source, and this water source must also be stable enough to sustain the production of food to feed its growing population. This article shows how Angkor, as a city, was able to manage its water in order to facilitate its growth – and how its failure could mean Angkor’s death. It’s also important to note that Angkor’s technical expertise seen in the light of the immense effort it takes to ‘grow’ a civilisation in the middle of a tropical jungle – just think of the Angkor today, overgrown with jungle and compare it with the Angkor that was mapped using radar and we see two very different places!

Angkor Wat was a city ahead of its time
The technology for harvesting water that enabled the Khmer to thrive also led to their fall, researchers say.
By Thomas H. Maugh II

The ancient Khmer city of Angkor in Cambodia was the largest preindustrial metropolis in the world, with a population near 1 million and an urban sprawl that stretched over an area similar to modern-day Los Angeles, researchers reported Monday.

The city’s spread over an area of more than 115 square miles was made possible by a sophisticated technology for managing and harvesting water for use during the dry season — including diverting a major river through the heart of the city.

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