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Lost Cambodian City Found Using Frickin' Laser Beams

Apparently Ankgor Watt is a piece of a larger puzzle. Using frickin' areal lasers, archaeologists have identified a sprawling city around the 1,200 year old temple complex, revealing how the area’s network of temples were once connected.

The findings were reported this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Journal. Lasers uncovered an extensive network of roads and canals that, for the first time, clearly illustrated a planned urban landscape.

Archaeologists had suspected that the Cambodian jungle housed an ancient city but were amazed with what the new technology revealed.

"It's really remarkable to see these traces of human activity still inscribed into the forest floor many, many centuries after the city ceased to function and was overgrown." Said Sydney archaeologist, Damian Evans.

The lasers used to uncover the hidden city have been a powerful part of the archeologist’s toolbox. Known as lidar, the lasers are housed in an aircraft that travels over the target site. Lidar measures the distance between the ground and the aircraft, creating detailed 3D maps, even in dense vegetation. The technology has even been used to explore Stonehenge.

After mapping the areas in 2012, a team of Australian and French archaeologists roamed the jungle on foot to confirm the findings. Many of the remaining structures were buried under mounds of dirt. This, and the fact that weren't many debris in the area, led the archaeologists to believe that they were not looted, like many other Cambodian temples.

For years, archaeologists had been concentration on a 3.5 sq mile area of the city’s downtown. But the new data shows that it was much bigger, at least 14 sq miles:

"The real revelation is to find that the downtown area is densely inhabited, formally-planned and bigger than previously thought," Evans said. "To see the extent of things we missed before has completely changed our understanding of how these cities were structured."

Archaeologists plan to excavate the site to see what treasures lie amidst the dense jungle.


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