The Dragon's Mirror: The Magic of Angkor Wat VIII

Part 8


On April 1858, a young French explorer, Henri Mouhot, sailed from London to the Southeast Asia. He died in Laos in 1861 at the young age of 35, leaving a diary that was published in 1863 in which he described majestic temples buried in the jungle. Mouhot introduced the lost city of Angkor to the world.

Today the fame of Angkor Wat is consolidated as a world heritage and the largest religious complex left on Earth, with an area 4 times larger than that of Vatican City. Angkor Wat attracts 2 million tourists a year (but it is an official estimate from the government of Phnom Penh, in reality the numbers could be higher,) and it is proudly represented on the national flag of Cambodia.
In 1860, Angkor Wat was known only to local monks and villages, and the notion that this great temple was once surrounded by a completely unknown city of nearly a million people was completely unknown.

It took more than a century of excavations and archaeological analyses to reconstruct the history of the city of Angkor, to bring its structure to light, to reveal the streets, the possible position of the buildings, and its connection with the temple. And yet, many questions are still unanswered today.
Then, in 2014, archaeologists announced a series of new discoveries about Angkor and of an older city buried in the jungle.
An international team led by Dr. Damian Evans of the University of Sydney (Australia) has mapped 370 square kilometers of land around Angkor, with details that had never been shown before. A not inconsiderable performance if we take into account the density of the jungle in that area, and the presence of anti-human mines that still abound in Cambodia since the end of the civil war.

The work was completed in less than two weeks, and was made possible by "Lidar", a sophisticated remote sensor technology that is revolutionizing archaeology, especially in the tropics.
Lidar was mounted on a helicopter that repeatedly flew over the area to be mapped, firing a million laser beams every 4 seconds through the dense jungle blanket and recording every slightest variation in the topography of the land.
The ensuing results were incredible.