Dr Damian Evans and his team of archaeologists have undertaken ground-breaking research to map central Angkor using laser imaging. The work, part of a 15 year study, has revealed climate change caused the demise of the city. The Greater Angkor Project, led by Professor Roland Fletcher of the University of Sydney Department of Archaeology, continues to uncover secrets of the lost civilisation of Angkor Wat.
A great pre-industrial civilisation
The research is part of international efforts to map 1,000 sq km of land, much of it consisting of overgrown and impenetrable jungle. The region was once home to arguably the world’s greatest pre-industrial civilisation, comprised of magnificent temples and low-density housing connected by roadways and water canals. It’s expected the Greater Angkor Project will rewrite the history of Angkor. SBS television is currently unveiling the research findings in a two-part documentary, ‘Angkor Wat’s Hidden Megacity’.
“The main discoveries of the Greater Angkor Project have been to identify the huge extent of Angkor and its character as a giant low-density city,” Professor Fletcher said.
Laser Imaging providing answers
The project revealed a civilisation even bigger than previously understood, while providing a clearer picture of water management systems in the vast canal network. The study has offered clues regarding the demise of Angkor, suggesting climate change irreparably damaged the canal system at the peak of Angkor’s prosperity, triggering a rapid decline of the kingdom.
The LiDar (light direction and ranging) laser survey also revealed extensive ninth-century urban development to the north of Angkor in the Kulen Hills, including extensive road networks. Survey imaging of the region was performed by aircraft mounted equipment that maps the ground surface in 3D – including areas that are covered by dense rainforest.
Research findings applicable in today’s society
Professor Fletcher understands the significance of the laser imaging study of Angkor both in a historical and contemporary context, including “results of global relevance which relate to contemporary issues such as low-density urbanism and the risks of climate change.”
The project is supported by the Australian Research Council, and includes collaboration with partner institutions from Australia, France and Cambodia.