Laser-scanning technology has created an intricate map that reveals the 1,200-year-old lost city of Mahendraparvata
, located in Cambodia near the famous Angkor Wat temple complex.
Although archaeologists have long suspected Mahendraparvata was hidden beneath vegetation on the Phnom Kulen mountain, the detailed map created by modern technology was a surprise. Ground searches had previously revealed about 9 square miles of the city.
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The Khmer Archaeology Lidar Consortium used laser-equipped helicopters and a technique of light detection and ranging, called lidar for short, to produce a three-dimensional map of the ground beneath the jungle.
The data collected on the weeklong flights generated more than 5,000 digital photos and showed an area of about 143 square miles. Dozens of temple sites, canals and roads, including mounds that may be burial sites, are depicted
, University of Sydney archaeologist Damian Evans told Australia's The Age.
Located about 25 miles north of Angkor Wat, little was known about the surrounding area and the size of this hidden, underground city. The Angkor War temple complex, the largest religious complex in the world, is the draw for most of Cambodia’s tourists and was built in the 12th century by the Khmer empire.
“We had reasonable expectations, I guess, of what we would find using the lidar data, but what we’ve ended up with has just blown our minds,” Evans told The Age in a video interview. “It’s just absolutely incredible what we can see.”
Evans said in a CNBC News report that the downtown area of the city was densely inhabited and formally planned.
“To see the extent of things we missed before
has completely changed our understanding of how these cities were structured,” he said.
No one is sure why the Mahendraparvata civilization collapsed, although Evans told The Associated Press one theory that the city’s water management system may have driven people out.
Researchers will begin excavating the site, and Evans hopes to learn even more about how people of the time lived and about the lost city.
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