In a quick glance, the jungle surrounding Angkor Wat seems innocent. The greenish leaves and branches sway peacefully with the wind. The jungle beautify the temples, contrasting the golden stone with viridescent vegetation. Surprisingly, what is underneath this jungle, held an important discovery ever to be found.
Below the trees surrounding the beautiful Angkor Wat, researchers and scientist have discovered a huge connecting medieval cities. These cities surrounds the temple and stretches out very far away. These finding were made using what scientist called LIDAR (light detection and ranging). The LIDAR scanning system is attached to helicopter skids, and is flown over 734 square miles of dense forest to map out digital image of what lies underneath it. Several sites were found which were previously unknown to archeologist.
They found networks of roads between 900 and 1,400 years old connecting settlement and cities together. Vast system of water channels appear to be everywhere. Structures in the cities are mostly made of wood and thatch, they rotted away leaving no traces to the naked eye. These infrastructures were built centuries before archaeologists originally think such technology were even present in that area. These ancient cities are comparable to the size of Phnom Penh Cambodia today.
This research is conducted by Damian Evans, the leader of the Cambodian Archaeological Lidar Initiative (CALI). He stated that:
“The LIDAR quite suddenly revealed an entire cityscape there with astonishing complexity. It turned out we’d been walking and flying right over the top of this stuff for ten years and not even noticing it because of the vegetation.”
Mysterious geometrical patterns are also identified by lidar surveys at Angkor Wat temple and some as many as 100 kilometers from Greater Angkor. Those patterns are found in Mahendraparvata(the eighth to ninth century city), and Preah Khan. Evans predicted that these geometric features could be used to collect rain water, and some could be gardens or ceremonial spaces.
These finding shows how prosperous and dominating the Khmer empire were. It will help to further explain the success and collapse of the Khmer empire. It was believed that somehow the Thais invaded and everyone are forced to fled down south. However, Evans disagree will the idea as his aerial survey did not reveal any cities down south that the Khmer fled to.
History will be rewritten will all this findings and more discoveries will be unearth and reveal.