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Cambodia: 1998 - Archaeology

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1998: Archaeology: Radar Reveals Hidden Ruins in Cambodia
1998: Cambodia: Hun Sen Declares Election Victory
1998: Pol Pot Dies at 73
1998: Coalition Government

Radar Reveals Hidden Ruins in Cambodia

Archives consist of articles that originally appeared in Collier's Year Book (for events of 1997 and earlier) or as monthly updates in Encarta Yearbook (for events of 1998 and later). Because they were published shortly after events occurred, they reflect the information available at that time. Cross references refer to Archive articles of the same year.


1998: Archaeology: Radar Reveals Hidden Ruins in Cambodia

Evidence of previously unknown prehistoric mounds and temple ruins at the ancient city of ngkr in northern Cambodia has been found by archaeologists using detailed radar maps produced by the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the space agency announced on February 12, 1998.

The remains include a distribution of circular, prehistoric mounds and undocumented temples far to the northwest of ngkr, said archaeologist Elizabeth Moore, of the University of London in England, who led an expedition at the site in 1997. One of the discoveries, a small mound on the perimeter of the 12th-century Angkor Wat, the largest and most famous of ngkr's Hindu temples, suggests the site was occupied hundreds of years earlier than previously thought, Moore said.

The city of ngkr was the capital of Cambodia from the 9th to 15th centuries. During its zenith in the 13th century, it was a vast complex containing some 1000 temples, occupying about 100 sq km (about 39 sq mi), and populated by an estimated one million people.

The new discoveries were made possible by an airborne radar-imaging system developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The technology uses three different wavelengths of radar, including a longer wavelength that can penetrate the forest canopy, to construct detailed, topographic maps, according to NASA engineers.

In 1994 NASA completed a preliminary survey of the site using data collected by the space shuttle. The radar maps of ngkr were created from images captured in 1996. After examining the maps, archaeologists went to ngkr and found the ruins of four to six temples, including one approximately the size of a football field.

The expedition also located an ancient mound that Moore said could represent a settlement predating the period of temple building by 1000 years. The approximate age of artifacts found at the site have yet to be determined.

Moore predicted the findings would lead archaeologists to reconsider widely accepted ideas about ngkr's history and development. The radar maps not only bring into question traditional concepts of the urban evolution of ngkr, but reveal evidence of temples and earlier civilization either absent or incorrect on modern topographic maps and in early 20th-century archaeological reports, Moore said.


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