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Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. Uncovering archaeological landscapes at Angkor using lidar

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  • Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. Uncovering archaeological landscapes at Angkor using lidar

    [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. Evans<SUP>a</SUP>,<SUP>1</SUP>, Roland J. Fletcher<SUP>a</SUP>, Christophe Pottier<SUP>b</SUP>, Jean-Baptiste Chevance<SUP>c</SUP>, Dominique Soutif<SUP>b</SUP>, Boun Suy Tan<SUP>d</SUP>, Sokrithy Im<SUP>d</SUP>, Darith Ea<SUP>d</SUP>, Tina Tin<SUP>d</SUP>, Samnang Kim<SUP>d</SUP>, Christopher Cromarty<SUP>e</SUP>, St&#233;phane De Greef<SUP>c</SUP>, Kasper Hanus<SUP>f</SUP>, Pierre B&#226;ty<SUP>g</SUP>, Robert Kuszinger<SUP>h</SUP>, Ichita Shimoda<SUP>i</SUP>, and Glenn Boornazian<SUP>j</SUP>
    Author Affiliations: <SUP>a</SUP>University of Sydney, Sydney 2006, Australia; <SUP>b</SUP>&#201;cole Fran&#231;aise d'Extr&#234;me-Orient, Paris 75116, France; <SUP>c</SUP>Archaeology and Development Foundation, London W1K 4DZ, United Kingdom; <SUP>d</SUP>Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA), Siem Reap 17251, Cambodia; <SUP>e</SUP>McElhanney Indonesia, Jakarta 12510, Indonesia; <SUP>f</SUP>Institute of Archaeology, Jagiellonian University, Krak&#243;w 31-007, Poland; <SUP>g</SUP>Institut national de recherches arch&#233;ologiques pr&#233;ventives, Paris 75008, France; <SUP>h</SUP>Hungarian Indochina Company, H-1062 Budapest, Hungary; <SUP>i</SUP>Japan-APSARA Safeguarding Angkor, Siem Reap 17253, Cambodia; and <SUP>j</SUP>World 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


    <SUP>1</SUP>To 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.