Angkor Urban Sprawl

January/February 2017

Siem Reap Province, Cambodia
(Courtesy Damian Evans/CALI)

Researchers in northwestern Cambodia have carried out the largest airborne laser-scanning archaeological project to date. They used lidar to survey 900 square miles of the densely forested Angkor region, revealing centuries-old cities that once belonged to the vast Khmer Empire.

The kingdom’s provincial centers turn out to have many characteristics in common with Angkor, the metropolis surrounding the iconic Angkor Wat temple. All share a checkerboard of city blocks within a central moat, enormous reservoirs and canals used for water management, and mysterious mounds and “coiled” embankments built into the earth and seen at every eleventh- and twelfth-century temple site.

Archaeologist Damian Evans had spent a decade searching for evidence of an industrial city at a site east of Angkor called Preah Khan of Kompong Svay. When he looked at the new survey unobscured by vegetation, the three-mile-by-three-mile enclosed urban grid—the largest in Southeast Asia—appeared in plain sight. “It reveals this degree of complexity—the scope and scale at which human beings adapted the environment,” he says. “That’s what lidar illuminated so beautifully in Cambodia.”

  • Artifacts January/February 2017

    Neolithic Snowshoe

    Read Article
    (Courtesy © Provincia Autonoma di Bolzano–Alto Adige, Ufficio Beni Archeologici)
  • Around the World January/February 2017


    Read Article
    (Wikimedia Commons, Photo: CT Snow)
  • Digs & Discoveries January/February 2017

    Proteins Solve a Hominin Puzzle

    Read Article
    (Courtesy © Marian Vanhaeren)
  • Features January/February 2017

    Hoards of the Vikings

    Evidence of trade, diplomacy, and vast wealth on an unassuming island in the Baltic Sea

    Read Article
    (Gabriel Hildebrand/The Royal Coin Cabinet, Sweden)