Study of palaeoenvironment from West Baray shows drought at time of Angkor's collapse

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A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shed light on environmental factors that contributed to the collapse of Angkor in the 14th century. Periods of drought were inferred from a palaeoenvironmental study of the West Baray spanning 1,000 years, revealing a large amount of sedimentation (and thus water input) to the man-made lake prior to the 14th century, and much less sedimentation in the 14th and 15th century.

West Baray

Paleoenvironmental history of the West Baray, Angkor (Cambodia)
Mary Beth Daya, David A. Hodell, Mark Brenner, Hazel J. Chapman, Jason H. Curtis, William F. Kenney, Alan L. Kolata and Larry C. Peterson
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Published online 03 January 2012

Drought Led to Demise of Ancient City of Angkor
LiveScience, 02 January 2012

Ancient Capital Wilted When Water Ran Low
New York Times, 02 January 2012

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Dendrochronology sheds light on Angkor's collapse

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Stories about Angkor’s collapse makes it sound like there was one event that caused a civilisation to fall; I rather think there’s usually a confluence of factors. In Angkor, we can now add drought to the list which includes deforestation, breakdown of the water management system and attacks from neighbouring Siam. The conclusion of drought comes from a dendrochronology analysis, or the dating by tree rings, which is in itself a surprising technique because tree-ring dating is more reliable in temeperate climates where the seasonal changes produce more visible tree rings. I believe this may be first, or at the very least one of the few, instance where dendrochronology has been used in Southeast Asia (corrections, of course, are very welcome).

IMG_2027
photo credit: Hazel Motes

Drought might have collapsed Cambodian Angkor city
AP, 18 February 2009
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