Archaeologists discover vast medieval cities found hidden beneath Cambodian jungle

Archaeologists in Cambodia have unearthed a treasure trove of previously unknown cities close by the ancient temple city of Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat temple around which multiple cities dating back to the 12th century have recently been discovered
Angkor Wat temple around which multiple cities dating back to the 12th century have recently been discovered Image by Dennis Jarvis / CC BY-SA 2.0

Researchers believe that the groundbreaking discoveries will rewrite many of the current assumptions surrounding the history of south-east Asia.  The Guardian reports that it was through laser technology that a large empire from the 12th century was found concealed under the earth. Dr Damian Evans, the Australian archaeologist, had his findings published this week in the Journal of Archaeological Science. He states that multiple cities from between 900 and 1,400 years old were found beneath the tropical forest floor. What is remarkable is that a number of these urban areas rival the size of the country’s capital city, Phnom Penh.

The forests around the temples of Angkor Wat in which the ancient urban centres were located
The forests around the temples of Angkor Wat in which the ancient urban centres were located Image by Allie_Caulfield / CC BY 2.0

Data analysis by experts have some predicting that the densely population areas would have constituted the largest empire of the time over 900 years ago. Dr Evans disclosed that they discovered entire cities beneath the forest that up to last year no one knew existed. It was only when the results of a very large survey were analysed that the size of the city was apparent.

The Angkor temple ruins across the Unesco-protected Angkor archaeological park are a major tourist attraction. In fact, the country’s the main temple-city, Angkor Wat, appears on the national flag of Cambodia. Archaeological experts say these discoveries are the most important recent archaeological find. The emeritus professor of anthropology at Yale University, Michael Coe, believes that in terms of global knowledge of Angkorian civilisation, these airborne laser discoveries mark the greatest advance in the past 50 or even 100 years.