07/06/2013, 00.00
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Older than Angkor, the first Khmer capital, the lost city of Mahendraparvata, is found

Thanks to innovative laser technology, a group of archaeologists found traces of an entire urban area, predating Angkor by 350 years. Although its actual size is still unknown, the finding provides new information on the decline of the Khmer kingdom, with environmental degradation and deforestation as the leading contenders.

Phnom Penh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Angkor, the capital of the Khmer kingdom famous for its temples, reached its height of glory from the ninth to the twelfth centuries, but has not ceased giving up the wonders of its still partly unknown past. A recent discovery by a group of archaeologists is evidence of that.

Using the latest technology, they discovered traces of an extensive urban network, known as "the lost city of Mahendraparvata." Mentioned several times in ancient texts, the area was built before the more famous and celebrated Angkor. According to recent studies, the lost city would have been "the first Khmer capital more than 1,200 years ago."

At the end of June, researchers published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), indicating a discovery of exceptional value.

They showed the remains of a medieval city, built more than 350 years before Angkor (famous for the temple of Angkor Wat), that was probably the first capital of the Khmer kingdom: the lost city of Mahendraparvata.

The discovery was made possible by meticulous work using cutting-edge technology. In April 2012, a helicopter equipped with the latest radar technology called LiDAR conducted aerial scans of 370 Sq m around Angkor.

After tracing millions of topographic points and taking thousands of aerial pictures in just two days, which were processed over several months, an entire urban area was found whose size is still unknown.

Without radar technology, it would have been impossible to see wide roads, reservoirs, irrigation canals, and collapsed buildings through the jungle of trees, plants and forests with almost pinpoint accuracy.

The ancient city lies near Phnom Kulen, a huge mountain about 40 km north-east of Angkor.

Archaeologists point out that since Khmer houses were all made of wood, they did not survive the ravages of time. Only religious buildings, such as temples, were made of stone, and many places of worship have already been found at the site.

The area is so large that no one knows how far it goes. However, everyone agrees that it will provide more information and explanations for the gradual decline and eventual demise of the Khmer kingdom, which appears related, among others, to the environmental impact of massive deforestation.

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