King of the Gods

A new report released by the U.S.-based National Academy of Sciences (NAS) highlighting the results of an April 2012 airborne laser survey -- the first of its kind in Asia, covering 370 square kilometers of northwest Cambodia's Khmer Empire archaeological sites -- has revealed a much grander Angkor landscape, one without parallel in the pre-industrial world. Even more sensational, the June announcement of the findings confirmed the existence of a huge medieval city buried beneath impenetrable jungle on a remote mountain. Angkor was the capital of the Khmer Empire, which was founded in 802 AD on Mount Kulen when Jayavarman II was declared universal monarch.

These days the most popular Angkor sites for tourists are Angkor Thom, which is home to Bayon and its massive carved smiling faces; magnificent Angkor Wat; and smaller temples such as Ta Nei. But the precise data gathered by LiDAR, a remote sensing laser instrument, reveals that Angkor was actually a monumental, formally planned and low-density mega-city. Less visited ruins further afield, such as enchanting Beng Mealea, 52 kilometers from Siem Reap and sprawling Koh Ker, some 120 kilometers away, were actually satellite cities within Angkor's colossal urban network. Phnom Kulen, or Mount Kulen, meanwhile, 48 kilometers north of Siem Reap, has been identified as the location of the medieval city of Mahendraparvata, or the Mountain of Indra -- King of the Gods.

 

This makes Angkor the world's largest urban conurbation prior to Britain's 18th-century Industrial Revolution -- a revelation that completely alters how experts are looking at the area.


Kemo D. 7

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