Angkor Wat Grows with Latest Uncoverings

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December 14, 2015

A group of new finds has convinced archaeologists that the Cambodian temple complex known as Angkor Wat was much bigger in size and influence than previously thought.

University of Sydney professor Roland Fletcher announced the findings, which included evidence of a number of buried towers and remains of a spiral structure. As with other elements of Angkor Wat, archaeologists are unsure as to the precise details.

The Angkor Wat complex, the world’s largest religious monument, has as its main features a 213-foot-tall central tower and four surrounding smaller towers, enclosed by a number of walls. Excavations through the years have found evidence of roads, a moat, and other signs of civilization.

The layout of the 162.6-hectare complex overall is, historians say, designed to match Hindu cosmology. The most common reason for the complex’s being built is that the Khmer King Suryavarman II wanted it to be a temple to the god Vishnu.

The newly discovered spiral structure is nearly a mile long and incorporates several rectangular spirals to make up one giant spiral. Researchers found the remains of the structure by drilling through the existing ground cover and vegetation with a process called LiDar, a combination of lasers and radar.

More puzzling, the researchers concluded that the towers were built when the earliest parts of the Angkor War were being constructed, in the 12th Century, and then demolished during the construction of the main temple, later that century. It is possible, the scientists said, that the spiral structure was never completed. Indeed, the latest excavations found evidence of a canal cutting through the spiral structure, built as early as the end of the 12th Century.

The LiDar scanning also turned up evidence of eight towers built from sandstone and a kind of rock called laterite. The towers dotted the landscape on the western side of the complex, beside a gateway crossing the moat.

Researchers also found remains of a grid of roads, ponds, and mounds and evidence of a surrounding non-wealthy residential population, challenging the existing theory that the area surrounding the medieval complex was considered sacred and off-limits to the general population.

In addition, the researchers said, they found evidence of wooden structures suggesting that the temple complex was at one time a military fortification.

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