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, 104 (36), 14277-82

A Comprehensive Archaeological Map of the World's Largest Preindustrial Settlement Complex at Angkor, Cambodia

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A Comprehensive Archaeological Map of the World's Largest Preindustrial Settlement Complex at Angkor, Cambodia

Damian Evans et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.

Abstract

The great medieval settlement of Angkor in Cambodia [9th-16th centuries Common Era (CE)] has for many years been understood as a "hydraulic city," an urban complex defined, sustained, and ultimately overwhelmed by a complex water management network. Since the 1980s that view has been disputed, but the debate has remained unresolved because of insufficient data on the landscape beyond the great temples: the broader context of the monumental remains was only partially understood and had not been adequately mapped. Since the 1990s, French, Australian, and Cambodian teams have sought to address this empirical deficit through archaeological mapping projects by using traditional methods such as ground survey in conjunction with advanced radar remote-sensing applications in partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)/Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Here we present a major outcome of that research: a comprehensive archaeological map of greater Angkor, covering nearly 3,000 km2, prepared by the Greater Angkor Project (GAP). The map reveals a vast, low-density settlement landscape integrated by an elaborate water management network covering>1,000 km2, the most extensive urban complex of the preindustrial world. It is now clear that anthropogenic changes to the landscape were both extensive and substantial enough to have created grave challenges to the long-term viability of the settlement.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Figures

Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.
Oblique aerial views of remnant Angkorian urban features. (Upper Left) Occupation mounds and ponds. (Upper Right) Canals and embankments. (Lower Left) Multifunction roadway/canals. (Lower Right) Classic “village temple” configuration.
Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.
A new archaeological map of Greater Angkor.
Fig. 3.
Fig. 3.
Approximate extent of temple-and-pond-based agricultural settlements of the Angkorian and pre-Angkorian periods on the basis of an analysis of Landsat imagery and the spatial coverage of recent archaeological maps.
Fig. 4.
Fig. 4.
An arrangement of eight grid-like enclosures between the Angkor-Phimai Road and Prei Vihéar/Phnom Dei. Note that the road partially obliterates one of the enclosures, indicating that the structure is older than the (circa 11th- to 12th-century) road. Note the large Angkorian embankments running south from the Puok River toward the northeast corner of the West Baray, the size and great complexity of the infrastructure in the area, and also the numerous breaches of dykes and embankments by later watercourses.
Fig. 5.
Fig. 5.
An enclosed grid of mounds to the east of the East Baray. Note that it is isoclinal with Banteay Samrè and with the eastward extension of the northern wall of the baray, rather than with the baray or its outlet. Note also the extremely complex water management system in the area, including a northeast corner entry to the baray and the Krol Romeas distribution outlet from the center of the east bank of the East Baray into the Roluos River system.

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