The ancient lost city of the Khmer Empire is rediscovered under the jungle of Cambodia

Archaeologists used a laser that scans the terrain from the air to reveal the hidden city for centuries under the thick Cambodian jungle. Recently they found the lost city of the Khmer Empire.

Aerial view of Phnom Kulen. lost city of the Khmer Empire
Aerial view of Phnom Kulen.

A group of archaeologists has confirmed the location and urban layout of Mahendraparvata, one of the first capitals associated with the Khmer Empire. The ancient Angkorian city, dating from the 8th and 9th centuries AD, is located in the dense jungles of the Phnom Kulen Mountains in Cambodia.

Until now the city had barely been investigated due to the dense vegetation surrounding the site since it is an unsafe space due to the presence of landmines and unexploded ordnance left by the Khmer Rouge, present in the area until the ’90s.

To overcome these obstacles, researchers from the French Institute of Asian Studies and APSARA, the administrative authority of Cambodia for the Archaeological Park of Angkor, used an audiovisual technology known as LiDAR. It is a laser that scans the ground from the air and, thanks to the vegetation, reveals the topography of the land, as well as any artificial characteristics, which allows archaeologists to solve some of the problems related to access to the area.

lost city of the Khmer Empire
The urban grid revealed by LiDAR technology.

The study, which has been published in the journal Antiquity, reveals a complex urban network that follows a grid-shaped linear axis pattern that covers up to 50 square kilometers, an area that includes thousands of different archaeological features.

In the central zone, researchers discovered small sanctuaries, mounds, ponds, a royal palace, a pyramidal temple and “other coherent and unique infrastructure elements compared to all the other known capitals of the Khmer Empire,” archaeologists say in the study.

According to experts, the lost city of the Khmer Empire did not maintain the status of capital for a long time, as the Khmer Empire moved it to Angkor, possibly due to its better conditions for growing food in a less mountainous and accessible environment.

Part of a recently documented temple. lost city of the Khmer Empire
Part of a recently documented temple.

“The city may not last centuries or even decades, but the cultural and religious importance of the place has lasted until today,” says one of the team members, Damian Evans, of the French School of the Far East.

More finds near the city

Near Mahendraparvata, the researchers found 366 individual mounds that were arranged following geometric patterns and constructed in groups of 15. The purpose of these mounds is unclear, although they suggest that they were not funerary structures, ancient habitats or architectural foundations.

According to the researchers, they will need more time to discover the true purpose of the mounds found, while continuing to work to investigate other similar formations found elsewhere in Cambodia.

Source: New Scientist

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