Sunset at Angkor Wat. Photo (cc) Cap’n Surly.
The big story catching my eye at the moment is the discovery that there’s a lot more to Angkor Wat than previously thought. To some extent that shouldn’t be too surprising. The site is boasts massive buildings and is carefully planned. There’s some stunning engineering and hydraulics which feeds a network of pools. The problem is finding where the extra settlement is. The discovery of Angkor Wat was in the sixteenth century, but serious work only really started with the reports of Henri Mouhot in the 19th century. The big problem is finding the sites. Angkor is the stereotypical Lost City in the Jungle. The solution is to use radar which the Greater Angkor Project has been doing to look for plant growth and moisture.
You can’t build a massive city without there being some environmental impact, and the trick here is to see how plants grow after the site has been abandoned. Places where trenches were dug and ditches cut stay slightly damper than normal. Soil that accumulates over walls in contrast is better drained. This creates differences in in plant growth and produces images that look a bit like an x-ray or outline of the buildings. The results have been stunning. To quote Damien Evans, the Deputy Director of the project, “We have identified over a thousand new manmade ponds and at least 74 long-lost temples, by correlating the radar data with on-the-ground sampling.“