Did Urban Sprawl Take Down Angkor Wat?

The BBC reports on researchers studying satellite imagery of the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia. The researchers now believe that the urban area around Angkor may have been much larger than previously thought, possibly as large as modern-day Los Angeles. Using NASA images along with ground surveys and airborne photography, the researchers have found that “Angkor was extensive enough, and the agricultural exploitation intensive enough, to have created a number of very serious environmental problems,” according to Damian Evans of the University of Sydney.

Evans and the other authors of the study believe that deforestation, overpopulation, and bad water management may have contributed to the Angkor civilization’s collapse in the 14th century.

With all the discussions about national infrastructure after the Minneapolis bridge disaster, it’s a bit chilling to read that the study found breaches and ad hoc repairs on the large and complex Angkor irrigation system, “suggesting that the system became unmanageable over time.”

[photo by tylerdurden]

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