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.
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
Another one up for climate change – analysis of tree ring data from Vietnam give us a better understanding of how climate change in the 14th and 15th centuries contributed to the collapse of Angkor in an open-access article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
photo credit: Alex Grechman
Climate as a contributing factor in the demise of Angkor, Cambodia
PNAS, 29 March 2010
Did climate influence Angkor’s collapse?
e! Science News, 29 March 010
Angkor Wat doomed by drought, floods, suggests tree ring study
USA Today, 29 March 2010
Did Climate Influence Angkor’s Collapse? Evidence Suggests Changing Environment Can Bring Down a Civilization
Science Daily, 30 March 2010
Drought and flooding led to collapse of Angkor
LA Times, 31 March 2010
Climate blamed in fall of Angkor
Phnom Penh Post, 31 March 2010
Angkor lesson for cities
The Telegraph (Calcutta), 01 April 2010
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).
photo credit: Hazel Motes
Drought might have collapsed Cambodian Angkor city
AP, 18 February 2009