Archaeologists have found medieval cities that are hidden under the thick jungle in Cambodia not far from the ancient temple city of Angkor Wat, reported ABC News. The discovery was made using lasers and will shed new light on the medieval cities found throughout the region that were created by the same people who created the world's largest religious complex.'
"While the research has been going on for several years, the new findings uncover the sheer scale of the Khmer Empire's urban sprawl and temple complexes to be significantly bigger than was previously thought," wrote ABC.The research reportedly draws on airborne laser scanning technology known as lidar, and will be unveiled in full at the Royal Geographic Society in London on Monday, June 13 by Australian archaeologist Damian Evans.
"We always imagined that their great cities surrounded the monuments in antiquity," Dr. Evans told AFP News. "But now we can see them with incredible precision and detail, in some places for the very first time, but in most places where we already had a vague idea that cities must be there."
The nearby temples of Angkor Wat have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and were constructed by King Suryavarman II in the early to mid 1100's at the height of the Khmer Empire's power. The awe-inspiring structures are considered by experts to be among the most important medieval cities locations in southeast Asia and are counted as one of the ancient wonders of the world, standing among the world's largest pre-industrial cities.
Airborn Laser Scans Reveal Ancient Buried Khmer Cities In Cambodia's Heartland.Despite the site's popularity, scholars have long believed that there was far more to the medieval empire located in the region than just the buildings that remain today at Angkor. And now, a huge collection of new data is building on scans made in 2012 that confirmed the existence of an ancient temple city nearby Angkor Wat that is known as Mahendraparvata.
"We have entire cities discovered beneath the forest that no one knew were there – at Preah Khan of Kompong Svay and, it turns out, we uncovered only a part of Mahendraparvata on Phnom Kulen [in the 2012 survey]… this time we got the whole deal and it's big, the size of Phnom Penh big," Evans said according to The Guardian, referring to Cambodia's modern-day capital city.
The recently analyzed data was captured in 2015 as part of the most extensive airborne study that has ever been undertaken by an archaeological team. The area covered 734 square miles (1,901 square kilometers) and shows a staggering number of enormous, densely populated cities that would have easily been the largest medieval empire on earth at the time of its peak during the 12th century.
"Our coverage of the post-Angkorian capitals also provides some fascinating new insights on the 'collapse' of Angkor," Evans shared. "There's an idea that somehow the Thais invaded and everyone fled down south – that didn't happen, there are no cities [revealed by the aerial survey] that they fled to. It calls into question the whole notion of the Angkorian collapse."
The survey also uncovered an array of additional discoveries, such as elaborate water systems built hundreds of years before the technology was believed to have existed. In addition to lending insights to its collapse, the findings are expected to shed new light on the role of climate change and water management in the medieval cities, as well as how the Khmer empire developed and ultimately dominated the entire region before it declined during the 15th century.
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