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Space radar finds lost civilisation in Cambodia - The Times of India

Michael Sheridan ()
March 14, 1998

Title: Space radar finds lost civilisation in Cambodia
Author: Michael Sheridan
Publication: The Times of India
Date: March 14, 1998

Hidden by the jungle, the remains of a 10th-century city around
the legendary temples of Angkor in Cambodia have been discovered
by researchers using a sophisticated Nasa radar system.

Dr Elizabeth Moore, an archeologist from the University of
London, is the first western scholar to have seen them. She made
a hazardous field trip to the site on foot with an escort
provided by the Cambodian authorities to help her avoid
minefields laid during the country's civil war.

There, Moore found the ruins of six splendid temples adorned by
statues of Hindu gods. Some predated by centuries the celebrated
temples of Angkor, an ancient city of 1,000 structures covering
100 square miles and sustained by a complex system of canals and

"The radar data has enabled us to detect a network of circular
'prehistoric' mounds and undocumented temples fat to the
northwest of Angkor," said Moore, head of the art and archeology
department at London's School of Oriental and African Studies.

She concluded that a city had been built between 200 and 300
years before Angkor is known to have flourished as the capital of
a lost Khmer empire with a population of one million.

A mysterious earth mound, which is much older, suggested human
habitation in the area 1,000 years earlier.

Moore believes the findings will force scholars to review their
theories about the Khmer civilisation and the way its buildings
expanded under the warrior kings who ruled Cambodia between the
8th and 13th centuries.

Researchers pieced together the new material with an earlier set
of high-resolution radar images filmed during a mission by the
Nasa space shuttle Endeavour in 1994.

Yet even as scientists map out its fresh wonders from the air, on
the ground the treasures of Cambodia's greatest national monument
are under threat.

Looters are plundering its isolated temples for valuable
sandstone carvings, such as heads of the Buddha and erotic Apsara
dancing girls, which are hacked off friezes and chiselled out of
wall niches. Many are smuggled to unscrupulous dealers in Bangkok
where they sell to tourists for up to 10,000 a piece.

Protecting the ruins has been made almost impossible by a
combination of corruption in the poorly paid Cambodian armed
forces, continued Khmer Rouge insurgency in the province of Siem
Reap, where the temples lie, and a general climate of insecurity
and lawlessness.

During the day soldiers patrol the perimeter around the temples,
preventing visitors going beyond a loose cordon. As dusk falls,
anxious armed guards urge foreigners to retreat down dusty roads
to the safety of the town of Siem Reap.

At night, when a hush descends on the temples, the soldiers
sometimes attach tripwires to landmines to protect the most
famous sites. Christopher Howes, a British mine-clearance expert,
has been missing since he was abducted by the Khmer Rouge while
working at a mined temple near the complex in March 1996.

Despite the dangers, Angkor's fascination remains compelling.
Decorated with bas-reliefs depicting bloody battles against Thai
and Vietnamese enemies, Angkor's temples served both as monuments
of state and places of worship.

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