Ground penetrating radar reveals why ancient Cambodian capital was moved to Angkor

Related Articles

Related Articles

The largest water management feature in Khmer history was built in the 10th century as part of a short-lived ancient capital in northern Cambodia to store water but the system failed in its first year of operation, possibly leading to the return of the capital to Angkor.

An international team of researchers led by Dr Ian Moffat from Flinders University in Australia used ground penetrating radar to map the surface of a buried spillway in Koh Ker to better understand why the reservoir failed during its first year of use.

In a study published in Geoarchaeology, archaeologists explain that the 7km long embankment was designed to capture water from the Stung Rongea river but modelling indicates it was inadequate to contain the average water flow in the catchment, putting into question the legitimacy of Khmer kings, and forcing them to re-establish their capital in Angkor.

 

Regional map of Koh Ker showing the location of the chute and key archaeological features. The detailed map area (top right) is shown as a white dashed box on the regional map (left). The black dashed line in the detailed map area shows the approximate area of Fig 2. The location of Koh Ker compared with Angkor, Phnom Penh, and Ho Chi Minh City is shown in the bottom right. North is up in all figures. Credit : Dr Ian Moffat, Flinders University

“At that time, embarking on projects of civil engineering such as temple building, urban renewal, and the development of water infrastructure was central to establishing the legitimacy of Khmer kings,” says Dr Moffat

“It’s not difficult to envisage that the failure of the embankment at Koh Ker–the largest and most ambitious infrastructure project of the era–may have had a significant impact on the prestige of the sovereign capital, and contributed to the decision to re-establish Angkor as the capital of the Khmer Empire.”

“Our study shows that this ambitious engineering feat was always doomed to rapid failure.”

The monumental complex of Koh Ker, located 90 km northeast of Angkor, remains relatively poorly understood even though it was briefly the capital in the middle of the 10th century CE under King Jayavarman IV, the only capital throughout six centuries to be established outside of the Angkor region.

The site is located in an area of gently sloping hills and stone outcrops, far removed from the low-lying floodplains that define the Khmer heartland.

FLINDERS UNIVERSITY

Header Image : Koh Ker – Credit : thomaswanhoff

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic

LATEST NEWS

Ancient Mosaic Criticises Christianity

An ancient mosaic from a 4th-century house in the centre of the ancient city of Paphos in Cyprus, was a 'pictorial' criticism of Christianity according to experts.

Geoscience: Cosmic Diamonds Formed During Gigantic Planetary Collisions

It is estimated that over 10 million asteroids are circling the Earth in the asteroid belt. They are relics from the early days of our solar system, when our planets formed out of a large cloud of gas and dust rotating around the sun.

Vettuvan Koil – The Temple of the Slayer

Vettuvan Koil is a rock-cut temple, located in Kalugumalai, a panchayat town on the ancient trade routes from Kovilpatti to courtallam, in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

The Testimony of Trees: How Volcanic Eruptions Shaped 2000 Years of World History

Researchers have shown that over the past two thousand years, volcanoes have played a larger role in natural temperature variability than previously thought, and their climatic effects may have contributed to past societal and economic change.

Sentinels of Ocean Acidification Impacts Survived Earth’s Last Mass Extinction

Two groups of tiny, delicate marine organisms, sea butterflies and sea angels, were found to be surprisingly resilient--having survived dramatic global climate change and Earth's most recent mass extinction event 66 million years ago.

The Venerable Ensign Wasp, Killing Cockroaches For 25 million Years

An Oregon State University study has identified four new species of parasitic, cockroach-killing ensign wasps that became encased in tree resin 25 million years ago and were preserved as the resin fossilized into amber.

Modern Humans Reached Westernmost Europe 5,000 Years Earlier Than Previously Known

Modern humans arrived in the westernmost part of Europe 41,000 - 38,000 years ago, about 5,000 years earlier than previously known, according to Jonathan Haws, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Louisville, and an international team of researchers.

Akrotiri – The Ancient Town Buried by a Volcano

Akrotiri is an archaeological site and a Cycladic Bronze Age town, located on the Greek island of Santorini (Thera) near the present-day village of Akrotiri (for which the prehistoric site is named).

Popular stories

The Secret Hellfire Club and the Hellfire Caves

The Hellfire Club was an exclusive membership-based organisation for high-society rakes, that was first founded in London in 1718, by Philip, Duke of Wharton, and several of society's elites.

Port Royal – The Sodom of the New World

Port Royal, originally named Cagway was an English harbour town and base of operations for buccaneers and privateers (pirates) until the great earthquake of 1692.

Matthew Hopkins – The Real Witch-Hunter

Matthew Hopkins was an infamous witch-hunter during the 17th century, who published “The Discovery of Witches” in 1647, and whose witch-hunting methods were applied during the notorious Salem Witch Trials in colonial Massachusetts.

Did Corn Fuel Cahokia’s Rise?

A new study suggests that corn was the staple subsistence crop that allowed the pre-Columbian city of Cahokia to rise to prominence and flourish for nearly 300 years.