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Angkor: A Great Discovery
Transcript of Angkor: A Great Discovery
By: Eileen Stefansky
Who discovered Angkor?
Actually, Angkor was never lost!
However, the site was forgotten by the western world and was only rediscovered in the 1850's by a man by the name of Henri Mouhot.
The Fall of Angkor
A Palace Demonstration
Where is Angkor?
Angkor is located in the northern Siem Reap province of Cambodia.
The UNESCO site of Angkor spans more that 400 square kilometers!
Important Archeological Findings
Bernard-Philippe Groslier (above in white), an archaeologist with the French School of Asian Studies, was the first person to envision Angkor as a hydraulic based city. In 1979 he proposed that the barays served two purposes: to symbolize the primeval or milky sea of Hindu cosmogony and to irrigate rice fields.
After Christophe Pottier (above in brown), an architect and archaeologist, looked at Groslier's work in 1992, he traveled to Cambodia to plan the restoration of the sacred temples. Afterwards he became one of the first people to map much of Angkor, doing surveys of historical sites and of the water system.
In 2000, Fletcher (below in red) and his colleague Damian Evans (below in brown) used NASA radar images of Angkor to better analyze the vast city. They not only saw the complex water system of Angkor at its full scale, but they also were able to locate several sites in areas of Angkor that were currently inaccessible. This led the duo tohire an ultralight pilot with whose help they reached several almost untouched ruins.
At the beginning of the 9th century, Jayavarman II united two states to form the Khmer Empire. This Empire would last for five centuries, until the 15th century. To the north of The Great Lake, or Tonle Sap, Jayavarman's son, Yashovarman, founded Angkor. It became the permanent capital of the Khmer Empire.
Angkor was first added onto by Rajendravarman in the 960’s. He funded the construction of the state temple at Pre Rup. He also constructed the Eastern Mebon, a temple on an artificial island in the center of the Eastern Baray. His son, Jayavarman V, abandoned the Pre Rup site in and relocated the state temple to Ta Kev around 1000 C.E. After an upheaval by Suryavarman I, his successor in 1050 C.E. created a new and more impressive state temple, the Baphuon. Then, Suryavarman II, in 1113 C.E., built the greatest of all Khmer monuments, Angkor Wat, which was dedicated to the god Vishnu. He died around 1150 C.E., and in 1177 C.E. Angkor was sacked by the Chams. Jayavarman VII retook Angkor and made his capital at Angkor Thorn. The rest of this century and the next were rather uneventful until the 13th century came along and the beginning of the end came to pass.
The Rulers of Angkor
Video Clip on the Bas Reliefs
Of Interest in Angkor
From Wood to Stone
Khmer woodworking can be traced back as far as the 6th century. Originally, it was influenced by Indian styles and by images from the Hindu religious pantheon, and, much later, by Buddhism.
Master wood-carver Chan Sim (pictured right) has said that "during the Angkor period, skilled artists were called upon by the kings to contribute their work to the vast building plans at Angkor, and it was then that the four main design types of Cambodia were consolidated."
Khmer woodworking has continued to use these four main styles since the Angkor period. Unsurprisingly, the four styles are wind, water, land and air. Each style has unique defining aspects, and symbolizes elements of the human experience.
All of these styles can be seen throughout the stone architecture of Angkor because the stone masons were wood-carvers first and used their knowledge of woodworking to build the beautiful stone temples that still stand proud today.
Audio story of Henri Mouhot...
When archeologists looked at the overall landscape of Angkor by using images provided by NASA, they were astonished to see that a great portion of it was transformed by the engineers of the Khmer Empire. During the early centuries of the empire, over 200,000 laborers constructed hundreds of miles of canals and dikes to take water from the Puok, Roluos, and Siem Reap Rivers and transport it into large to barays. In doing so, when monsoons struck, overflow channels could divide and collect excess water. Afterwards, when the rainy months has passed, irrigation channels could then be opened and the stored water released. The barays also gave moisture to the soil by draining so that water soaked into the earth of fields. This was very important because rice could be grown year round whereas normally it could not be. Moreover, by trapping monsoon water the city was able to retain the rich sediment it brings up, so using it for irrigation would have boosted harvests. Finally, the stores of water would have both provided water during dry spells and a way to divert heavy monsoon rains away from the city when flooding threatened.
Bas Reliefs of Angkor Wat
The Bas Reliefs were very important to the city of Angkor. This is because the carving of the reliefs reflected the wealth of the nation and because the reliefs contained the history of the Angkor people and their gods. Without the presence such a marvelous preservation of the Khmer culture and beliefs archeologists may still be piecing together their history.
An Introduction to Angkor
A Nation of Water
Angkor's fall can be attributed to two facts: war and water. According to Fletcher, any deterioration of the waterworks would have left Angkor vulnerable. Signs of this can be found on the outer canals and dikes of the city. Fletcher states that this was most likely due to the engineers constantly having to monitor and fix the monstrous water system they had constructed; somethings were bound to be missed. To add to this unknown damage, in the 1300's Asia and Europe endured the Little Ice Age. In Cambodia, this was followed by two massive droughts from 1362 to 1392 and from 1415 to 1440. During these periods the monsoons would not have come and water supply would have dropped very low, preventing the city from getting enough water for both its crops and its people. Weak and exhausted from continually bad luck with weather, Angkor would have been ripe for the taking. The finally blow came when the Ayutthaya warriors sacked Angkor in 1431.
The city of Angkor, founded in the 9th century and felled in the 15th, is perhaps the greatest rediscovery in all of Cambodia. It represents an empire that ruled by power and wisdom, retaking their city when it was sacked by the Chams, and using the environment and their preexisting skills to construct a city which still rivals those of today in both beauty and ingenuity. By studying the city of Angkor archeologists have been able to learn the history of the Khmer people and witness their development over six centuries hundreds of years later. I can only hope that when our culture is dead and gone that we leave behind a culture just as fascinating.