Monday, July 20, 2009

Imperial Angkor

NAT GEO July 2009 did a fantastic article about the fall of the Angkor Dynasty and here's just an abstract.

Imperial Angkor

Its vast water system awas a marvel of engineering - and a cautionary tale of technoloical overreach. At its height in the 13th century, the capital of the Khmer Empire was the most extensive urban coplex in the world. USing imaging radar and other tools, reseachers have learnt that Greater Angkor covered almost 400 square miles, roughly the area of the 5 boroughs of NY City, with as many as 750,000 inhabitants. Most were rice farmers and laborers who worked the giant jigsaw of fields. In the city center, perhaps 40,000 people - elites and farmers alike - lived within the walls of Angkor Thom, a 3.5 square mile enclosure with temples and a royal palace. Though the rainy season usually brought ample water, the ability to store water in great reservoirs called barays and conrol its flow gave Angkor an edge in times of drought or flood. BUt this engineered landscape required constant maintenance. When the water system faltered, so did Angkor's power

Angkor's Complex Plumbing

In Southeast Asia, months of monsoon rains are followed by months of near drought. To ensure a steady water supply, stabilize rice production, and control flooding, Khmer engineers built a newtork of canals, moats, ponds and reservoirs. Massive earthworks slowed the wet-season deluge flowing from the Kulen hills, directing it into canals that fed the barays and temple moats. Spreading across the gently sloping land, the water drained finally into Tonle Sap, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia

Sacred Source

The Kulen Hills sheltered the headwaters of the Siem Reap River and were quarried for rock to build Angkor's temples. The hills were logge for timber and firewood o clear land for farming: Deforesation may have caused floods that choked some of ANgkor's canals with sand and silt.

Kulen Hills

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