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A History of Angkor Wat

{Radar image of central Angkor area showing traces of irrigation channels, moats, and the extent of Angkor's urban sprawl.}

Welcome today's guest contributor Christopher my husband, who loves history and shares today the history of Angkor Wat.

If asked, what would your guess be for the largest pre-industrial city in the world? London? Somewhere in Central America? Maybe somewhere in the Middle East? The answer is Cambodia. Angkor, in Cambodia dwarfed all other cities in the world. In it's height in the 12th and 13th centuries, Angkor had a population of 500,000 people located in an area of roughly 400 miles square. Size wise, Angkor was equal to modern day Los Angeles. Population wise, it equals modern Memphis. The Khmer Empire ruled from 800-1430. Angkor was the capital for most of that time.

{Satellite image of the temple of Angkor Wat}

As I wrote earlier, it dwarfed the competing cities. Just for comparisons sake, the second largest city was in modern day Guatemala. It was known as Tikal. It had a population of 90,000 people in an area of roughly 55 square miles. Europe was in the "Middle Ages" and fighting the crusades. None of their cities even remotely challenged Angkor in size or population.

{entrance to Angkor Wat}

Angkor means "temple" in Khmer. In the Angkor region, there are literally thousands of temples that dot the landscape. Of these, Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom are the two largest and most famous. These large temples were the religious, political, cultural, and business centers of the city. They were surrounded by suburban areas that supported homes, rice fields, and smaller temples.

{entry path to Angkor Wat, view from top looking at entry, the infamous tree roots over temple ruins}

The suburban areas were connected to the larger temples via a complex system of canals and reservoirs. The canals allowed for the movement of people and goods from suburban to urban centers, while the reservoirs moderated the extremes of water supply in an area that depended on an unpredictable annual monsoon for its drinking and irrigation water.

{along path of main Angkor Wat temple; man sells photo op with horse}

Angkor Wat was built by King Suryavarman II in the 12th century in a span of about 30 years. It served as his state temple and capital city. Construction ended shortly after his death in the middle of the 12 century. It was dedicated to the god Vishnu and has many bas-reliefs honoring the religion. The structure was built out of sandstone which helped integrate the extensive decoration into the architecture of the building. It is known for its decoration as much as it is for its structure. Angkor Wat is such a symbol of national pride, that it has been depicted in every Cambodian national flag since 1863.
Last three sets of photos in this article by Sophorn are available for purchase. Proceeds benefit 30 Days of Hope. Please also enjoy today's songs: part of movie score of Hong Kong film "In the Mood for Love" entitled Angkor Wat Theme 1 by Michael Galasso and a traditional Cambodian piece.
Thanks Christopher!
{photo above with Atticus and nephew Wills. Taken about 2 years ago but this is Christopher's favorite photo of himself. As I happen to be the photographer, I also agree.}

1 comment:

  1. it's my favorite pic of christopher too...wonder why ? : ) shannon


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