via Khmer Times, 20 November 2018: Preah Pithu is a group of temples in the northern area of Angkor Thom.
Preah Ptihu by S-F / Shutterstock
The Apsara Authority has formed a committee tasked with relocating vendors and parking spaces around Preah Pithu temple in order to restore public order in the area.
The Apsara Authority on Friday held a meeting over the matter and formed the committee while discussing a solution to a growing number of vendors and visitors at the temple in Angkor Thom, northeast of the Bayon temple in front of Tep Pranam.
Sok Sangvar, deputy director-general of the Apsara Authority, yesterday said that a growing number of vendors and visitors, who park archaically, have led to public disorder around the temple.
Source: Apsara Authority looks to relocate Preah Pithu temple vendors – Khmer Times
via PLOS One, 5 Nov 2018: A cool new Open Access paper by Klassen et al. using machine learning to create a predictive chronology of Angkorian temples based on the architectural features and artifacts found at a site.
Archaeologists often need to date and group artifact types to discern typologies, chronologies, and classifications. For over a century, statisticians have been using classification and clustering techniques to infer patterns in data that can be defined by algorithms. In the case of archaeology, linear regression algorithms are often used to chronologically date features and sites, and pattern recognition is used to develop typologies and classifications. However, archaeological data is often expensive to collect, and analyses are often limited by poor sample sizes and datasets. Here we show that recent advances in computation allow archaeologists to use machine learning based on much of the same statistical theory to address more complex problems using increased computing power and larger and incomplete datasets. This paper approaches the problem of predicting the chronology of archaeological sites through a case study of medieval temples in Angkor, Cambodia. For this study, we have a large dataset of temples with known architectural elements and artifacts; however, less than ten percent of the sample of temples have known dates, and much of the attribute data is incomplete. Our results suggest that the algorithms can predict dates for temples from 821–1150 CE with a 49-66-year average absolute error. We find that this method surpasses traditional supervised and unsupervised statistical approaches for under-specified portions of the dataset and is a promising new method for anthropological inquiry.
Source: Semi-supervised machine learning approaches for predicting the chronology of archaeological sites: A case study of temples from medieval Angkor, Cambodia
via South China Morning Post, 13 November 2018: Cambodian workers at the West Mebon restoration project face serious financial hardship now that their salaries are slashed in half. This story was previously reported by the Phnom Penh Post.
Angkor temple restorers face financial ruin after French funding ends, but want to finish job
Source: Angkor temple restorers face financial ruin after French funding ends, but want to finish job | South China Morning Post
via BBC World Service, 29 October 2018: Peter Sharrock from SOAS discusses the ancient Khmer hospital system.
Bayon Jayavarman VII by Rolf_52 / Shutterstock
Jayavarman 7th, arguably the most ambitious of Khmer kings, was a great builder: he ordered the construction of many large temples and other public monuments, and also over a hundred hospitals. Art historian Dr. Peter Sharrock from the University of London explains how the hospitals were staffed, supplied and why everyone could use them.
Source: BBC World Service – The Forum, Cambodia’s ancient Khmer Empire, The founder of the world’s earliest public health system?
Lecture at the Siam Society, Bangkok on 8 November 2018
Examination of Ancient Khmer Defensive Warfare Practices by Paul T. Carter
DATE: Thursday, 8 November 2018
TIME: 7:00 p.m.
PLACE: The Siam Society, 131 Asoke Montri Rd, Sukhumvit 21
Did ancient Khmer kings, particularly during the Classic Angkor period, neglect key defensive warfare principles which neighboring civilizations, less powerful and grand than Angkor, practiced centuries earlier? The lecturer argues that while Khmer kings displayed very capable offensive warfare capabilities, they did indeed ignore basic defensive warfare tenets which largely rendered them militarily defenseless. This does not argue that the neglect of defensive warfare principles caused the collapse of the empire, nor that its key rulers, such as Jayavarman VII, completely ignored the defense of Angkor. His construction of Angkor Thom, with its significant walled and moat barriers, certainly illustrates some regard for defense. Neither does this suggest the employment of robust defensive principles would have saved Angkor from potentially debilitating societal changes that affected kings’ ability to respond to threats. The preponderance of available evidence does suggest, however, that at no time did Angkor’s kings conduct key defensive warfare practices that other civilizations used centuries earlier. Such neglect placed the Khmer army at a significant disadvantage against the larger, attacking Ayutthaya Army in 1431, and made it unnecessarily vulnerable to any future enemies. This lecture demonstrates how Khmer kings ignored fundamental defensive warfare techniques. Next, that the Khmers would have been aware of these techniques earlier civilizations had practiced. Finally, it examines possible reasons for such neglect which leads to a broader discussion of Angkor civilization.
via BBC Sounds, 28 October 2018: A BBC audio program about Angkor and the Khmer civilisation featuring a number of prominent scholars. I am a little bothered by the fact that there aren’t any Cambodians in the panel though – it seems silly to have a discussion about Khmer culture and civilisation without any Khmers involved.
Around the twelfth and thirteenth century CE Angkor was thought to be one of the world’s biggest cities. Its massive temple complex at Angkor Wat covered hundreds of acres adorned with majestic towers, terraces and waterways: symbols of the might of the Khmer kings who ruled the region. Angkor Wat attracts millions of tourists every year and has pride of place on the Cambodian national flag but there’s much more to Angkor and the Khmer civilisation than its temples.
Bridget Kendall talks about Khmer history with David Chandler, Emeritus Professor of history at Monash University in Melbourne; architectural historian Dr. Swati Chemburkar from the Jnanapravaha Arts Centre in Mumbai; anthropologist Dr. Kyle Latinis from the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore and former Dean of the University of Cambodia; and art historian Dr. Peter Sharrock from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.
Source: BBC Sounds – The Forum – Cambodia’s ancient Khmer Empire
A new paper in Science Advances by Penny et al. suggests that climatic fluctuations which stressed Angkor’s urban hydraulic system may have ultimately contributed to the city’s ‘demise’. The conclusions were reached from computer simulations modelling the effect of monsoon rains and droughts onto Angkor’s urban infrastructure.
Complex infrastructural networks provide critical services to cities but can be vulnerable to external stresses, including climatic variability. This vulnerability has also challenged past urban settlements, but its role in cases of historic urban demise has not been precisely documented. We transform archeological data from the medieval Cambodian city of Angkor into a numerical model that allows us to quantify topological damage to critical urban infrastructure resulting from climatic variability. Our model reveals unstable behavior in which extensive and cascading damage to infrastructure occurs in response to flooding within Angkor’s urban water management system. The likelihood and extent of the cascading failure abruptly grow with the magnitude of flooding relative to normal flows in the system. Our results support the hypothesis that systemic infrastructural vulnerability, coupled with abrupt climatic variation, contributed to the demise of the city. The factors behind Angkor’s demise are analogous to challenges faced by modern urban communities struggling with complex critical infrastructure.
Source: The demise of Angkor: Systemic vulnerability of urban infrastructure to climatic variations | Science Advances
via PhysOrg, 10 October 2018: A new Open Access paper in PLOS One indicates that the ‘brief’ 10th century Khmer capital of Koh Ker may not have been so brief after all.
Source: Tegan et al., PLOS ONE. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0203962
The classic account of the ancient city of Koh Ker is one of a briefly-occupied and abruptly-abandoned region, but in reality, the area may have been occupied for several centuries beyond what is traditionally acknowledged, according to a study published October 10, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Tegan Hall of the University of Sydney, Australia and colleagues.
Koh Ker was part of the Khmer kingdom during the Angkor period in what is now Cambodia. For a mere two decades in the tenth century CE, the city served as royal capital, and it has long been proposed that after the royal seat moved back to Angkor, the city and its surroundings were abandoned. In this study, Hall and colleagues tested this theory by analyzing charcoal and pollen remains in sediment cores spanning several centuries in three Koh Ker localities, including the moat of the main central temple. From these data, they inferred a long history of fluctuations in fire regimes and vegetation which are highly indicative of patterns of human occupation and land use over time.
Source: City of Koh Ker was occupied for centuries longer than previously thought
Re-evaluating the occupation history of Koh Ker, Cambodia, during the Angkor period: A palaeo-ecological approach | PLOS One
New paper by Carter et al. in the Journal of Field Archaeology
The Khmer Empire (9th–15th centuries a.d.), centered on the Greater Angkor region, was the most extensive political entity in the history of mainland Southeast Asia. Stone temples constructed by Angkorian kings and elites were widely assumed to have been loci of ritual as well as habitation, though the latter has been poorly documented archaeologically. In this paper, we present the results of two field seasons of excavation at the temple site of Ta Prohm. Using LiDAR data to focus our excavations, we offer evidence for residential occupation within the temple enclosure from before the 11th century a.d. until the 14th century. A comparison with previous work exploring habitation areas within the Angkor Wat temple enclosure highlights similarities and differences between the two temples. We argue that temple habitation was a key component of the Angkorian urban system and that investigating this unique form of urbanism expands current comparative research on the diversity of ancient cities.
Source: Urbanism and Residential Patterning in Angkor: Journal of Field Archaeology: Vol 43, No 6
via Khaosod English, 28 September 2018: The (failed) Thai attempt to move Angkor Wat was briefly mentioned in a previous Instagram post, but here’s the full story according to Thai historian Santi Pakdeekham.
BANGKOK — Thailand is often accused by Cambodians of stealing their cultural heritage, from Khon to the Preah Vihear temple. But all these disputes pale in comparison to Thailand’s attempted theft of Angkor Wat.
Source: That Time Thailand Tried Moving Angkor Wat to Bangkok