A Cambodian lost city by the name of Mahendraparvata has been discovered, near Cambodia's famous Angkor Wat temples! The city was uncovered by airborne lasers that broke through the canopy of dense forest under which it was hidden. What was the result? A detailed mapping of the lost city's landscape; including undiscovered temples and even highways!
The Cambodian lost city's network of roadways and canals paint a picture of a busy ancient city that was connected to the prized Angkor Wat temple complex. The attraction is a huge tourist destination and point of pride for the Cambodian people. The Angkor Wat temple complex, attached to the Cambodian lost city, was constructed in the 12th century during the Khmer empire and is one of Asia's most famous landmarks. The temple appears on the national flag and was named a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Cambodian lost city was announced late Monday in a paper by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The laser scanning uncovered a planned-out urban landscape that integrated temples that are 1,200 years old in the Siem Reap province. Archaeologists weren't too surprised to find the Cambodian lost city. Researchers had suspected that the city of Mahendraparvata was under the dense vegetation on the mountain of Phnom Kulen. However, the lasers used to scan the area produced the very first detailed map of the cityscape.
"No one had ever mapped the city in any kind of detail before, and so it was a real revelation to see the city revealed in such clarity," explained Damian Evans by phone from Cambodia. Evans is a University of Sydney archaeologist and serves as lead author of the new study. "It's really remarkable to see these traces of human activity still inscribed into the forest floor many, many centuries after the city ceased to function and was overgrown."
The Cambodian lost city's mapping was due to the "lidar" laser technology, which works by firing laser pulses from an aircraft to the ground. Researchers used the lasers from a helicopter from 800 meters above the ground in April 2012. The lasers then measure the distance to create a detailed, three-dimensional map. Then, Australian and French archeologists confirmed the laser's lost city findings with a traditional on-foot expedition. With these lasers, archaeologists can map out the Cambodian lost city through the vegetation faster than they could on foot. Other sites such as Stonehenge have been explored using "lidar" lasers.
A 9-square-kilometer of the ancient Cambodian city's downtown area has already been mapped. It turns out that the area was once more populated than originally believed. "The real revelation is to find that the downtown area is densely inhabited, formally-planned and bigger than previously thought," Evans said. "To see the extent of things we missed before has completely changed our understanding of how these cities were structured."