Mystery of the "lost city": the experts shed new light on the collapse of the ancient megacity

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The events that led to the disappearance of the ancient Cambodian megalopolis of Angkor have remained mysterious for centuries. However, new research indicates that the fall of the city could have been a gradual process, as opposed to a single catastrophic event.

"New scientific evidence shows that the intensity of land use in the economic and administrative center of the city has gradually decreased more than 100 years before the supposed collapse, implying a very close different from the city, "say scientists at the University of Sydney. declaration.

According to experts, the sediment cores extracted from the moats surrounding the fortified citadel of Angkor Thom constitute an essential clue.

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On this Friday, March 20, 2015, in the archive photo, the sun rises behind Angkor Wat on the site located east of the province of Siem Reap, some 143 km north-west of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

On this Friday, March 20, 2015, in the archive photo, the sun rises behind Angkor Wat on the site located east of the province of Siem Reap, some 143 km north-west of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
(Grouvy Today Photo / Heng Sinith, File)

Surrounded by dense jungle, the vast city was home to the famous temple complex of Angkor Wat and was once the flourishing capital of the ancient Khmer empire. At one point, Angkor's population could be over one million people, according to LiveScience.

The circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Angkor have been debated for years. According to one theory, the aggression of neighboring states would have led to the abandonment of the city in 1431.

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"The changes in land use leave revealing traces in sedimentary deposits that can be measured.The measurement of these traces in drill core allows us to reconstruct what people have done in the past. landscape for long periods of time, "said Dan Penny, associate professor. at the School of Geosciences of the University of Sydney, in the release.

Scientists have a new theory about the collapse of the ancient city of Angkor in Cambodia.

Scientists have a new theory about the collapse of the ancient city of Angkor in Cambodia.
(University of Sydney)

By studying the sediments, scientists discovered that forest disturbance, soil erosion and burns had all declined during the first decades of the 14th century. This, they say, suggests a lasting decline in land use in the heart of the ancient city. By the end of this century, the moat was covered with floating vegetation, which could indicate that it was no longer serviced.

"Our study suggests that the locals did not leave Angkor because the infrastructure failed. The infrastructure failed (or was not maintained or repaired) because the l '. Urban elite is already gone, "Penny said in her release.

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Experts from the Far East French School and the Australian University Flinders also participated in the research, which is published in the review of the journal National Academy of Sciences.

DOSSIER - In this archival photo of July 14, 2014, tourists observe the view of the temples of Angkor Wat at sunrise, outside Siem Reap, Cambodia.

DOSSIER – In this archival photo of July 14, 2014, tourists observe the view of the temples of Angkor Wat at sunrise, outside Siem Reap, Cambodia.
(Grouvy Today Photo / Anat Givon, File)

A world heritage site that dates back to the 9th century AD, Angkor is described by UNESCO as "one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia". The temple complex of Angkor Wat is one of the largest religious monuments ever built, according to LiveScience.

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Archival photo - Temple of Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Archival photo – Temple of Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia.
(IStock)

Although often described as a "lost city," Angkor was known to locals after the city was abandoned. A Portuguese capuchin, Antonio da Madalena, was the first European to visit the city in 1586.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers