Airborne laser scanning technology has shown multiple medieval cities, ranging between 900 and 1,400 years old, beneath Cambodia's jungle floor, with some of the cities rivaling the size of Phnom Penh, the nation's capital.
The cities were located near the ancient temple city of Angkor Wat, the nation's top tourist destination, featured on Cambodia's national flag, reports The Guardian.
Experts say the cities would have made up the world's largest empire in the 12th century.
Australian archaeologist Dr. Damian Evans will publish his findings in the Journal of Archaeological Science on Monday, but experts are saying that the data, which was captured in 2015 by shooting lasers from helicopters into the jungle floor over an area covering some 734 square miles, reveals an ancient kingdom whose existence will turn around commonly held beliefs concerning ancient Asian culture.
"We have entire cities discovered beneath the forest that no one knew were there...this time we got the whole deal and it’s big, the size of Phnom Penh big," said Evans.
Evans, a research fellow at Siem Reap’s École Française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO) and the architect of the Cambodian Archaeological Lidar Initiative (Cali), will also speak at the Royal Geographic Society in London about the findings on Monday. He obtained European Research Council funding for the project based on his first survey in Cambodia in 2012, but the 2015 results revealed far more reaching findings.
the survey showed that beneath the jungle, the city, dating back to the 12 century, included elaborate water systems far ahead of their time, and even earthen shapes suggesting a series of temple gardens.
The findings will also challenge theories on how the Khmer empire developed and then declined around the 15th century, including the potential role of climate change in the decline, said Evans.
"There’s an idea that somehow the Thais invaded and everyone fled down south — that didn’t happen, [as] there are no cities [revealed by the aerial survey] that they fled to," said Evans. "It calls into question the whole notion of an Angkorian collapse."
The Angkor temple ruins, including the temple city of Angkor Wat, have long been considered the most extensive urban settlement known from before the industrial age.
David Chandler, emeritus professor at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, who is the foremost expert on Cambodian history, called the work "thrilling" and said Evans and his team were "rewriting history."
"It will take time for their game-changing findings to drift into guide books, tour guides, and published histories," Chandler said. "But their success at putting hundreds of nameless, ordinary, Khmer-speaking people back into Cambodia’s past is a giant step for anyone trying to deal with Cambodian history."
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.