Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a vast network of ‘ancient, hidden, underground cities’ deep in the Cambodian jungle.
The cities range from 900 to 1,400 years old and were built close to the medieval temple-city of Angkor Wat, and may have meant that the Khmer regime in Angkor was the biggest empire on the planet at the time.
The city was discovered through the use of a high-tech airborne laser, known as LIDAR, which scanned the area and revealed ‘elaborate water systems’ which historians claim were built hundreds of years earlier than we thought.
Dr. Damian Evans, who led the study, said:
We have entire cities discovered beneath the forest that no one knew were there – at Preah Khan of Kompong Svay and, it turns out, we uncovered only a part of Mahendraparvata on Phnom Kulen [in another 2012 survey].
This time however the researchers believe that they’ve discovered the whole thing, and they say the cities are massive with a combined size similar to Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia, which has a population of 1.5 million.
The groundbreaking discovery will reportedly turn assumptions about South East Asia’s history on their head.
Our coverage of the post-Angkorian capitals also provides some fascinating new insights on the ‘collapse’ of Angkor. There’s an idea that somehow the Thais invaded and everyone fled down south — that didn’t happen, there are no cities [revealed by the aerial survey] that they fled to. It calls into question the whole notion of an Angkorian collapse.
Dr. Peter Sharrock a London University School of Oriental and African Studies professor and Southeast Asia expert told The Guardian that the study reveals large population centers around ‘all ancient Khmer temples’.
While another Dr. Martin Polkinghorne a professor at Adelaide’s Flinders University, added that the discovery challenges the notion of the Angkor decline as a ‘dark age’.
The hope is that scientists can now work out exactly what caused the decline and eventual collapse of the Khmer regime.