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12 Jul 2013

Uncovering archaeological landscapes at Angkor using lidar (Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, abstract, edited)

[Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, full page: (LINK). Abstract, edited.]

Uncovering archaeological landscapes at Angkor using lidar

Damian H. Evansa,1, Roland J. Fletchera, Christophe Pottierb, Jean-Baptiste Chevancec, Dominique Soutifb, Boun Suy Tand, Sokrithy Imd, Darith Ead, Tina Tind, Samnang Kimd, Christopher Cromartye, Stéphane De Greefc, Kasper Hanusf, Pierre Bâtyg, Robert Kuszingerh, Ichita Shimodai, and Glenn Boornazianj

Author Affiliations: aUniversity of Sydney, Sydney 2006, Australia; bÉcole Française d'Extrême-Orient, Paris 75116, France; cArchaeology and Development Foundation, London W1K 4DZ, United Kingdom; dAuthority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA), Siem Reap 17251, Cambodia; eMcElhanney Indonesia, Jakarta 12510, Indonesia; fInstitute of Archaeology, Jagiellonian University, Kraków 31-007, Poland; gInstitut national de recherches archéologiques préventives, Paris 75008, France; hHungarian Indochina Company, H-1062 Budapest, Hungary; iJapan-APSARA Safeguarding Angkor, Siem Reap 17253, Cambodia; and jWorld Monuments Fund, New York, NY 10118

Edited by Arlen F. Chase, University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida, and accepted by the Editorial Board June 13, 2013 (received for review April 9, 2013)



Previous archaeological mapping work on the successive medieval capitals of the Khmer Empire located at Angkor, in northwest Cambodia (∼9th to 15th centuries in the Common Era, C.E.), has identified it as the largest settlement complex of the preindustrial world, and yet crucial areas have remained unmapped, in particular the ceremonial centers and their surroundings, where dense forest obscures the traces of the civilization that typically remain in evidence in surface topography. Here we describe the use of airborne laser scanning (lidar) technology to create high-precision digital elevation models of the ground surface beneath the vegetation cover. We identify an entire, previously undocumented, formally planned urban landscape into which the major temples such as Angkor Wat were integrated. Beyond these newly identified urban landscapes, the lidar data reveal anthropogenic changes to the landscape on a vast scale and lend further weight to an emerging consensus that infrastructural complexity, unsustainable modes of subsistence, and climate variation were crucial factors in the decline of the classical Khmer civilization.

Southeast Asia – urbanism – sustainability – resilience - water management



1To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail:

Author contributions: D.H.E., R.J.F., C.P., J.-B.C., D.S., B.S.T., S.I., D.E., S.K., C.C., P.B., R.K., I.S., and G.B. designed research; D.H.E., J.-B.C., D.S., B.S.T., S.I., D.E., T.T., S.K., and C.C. performed research; D.H.E., R.J.F., C.P., J.-B.C., B.S.T., S.I., D.E., S.D.G., and K.H. analyzed data; and D.H.E. and C.C. wrote the paper.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.