Airborne laser technology has uncovered a network of roadways and canals, illustrating a bustling ancient city linking Cambodia’s famed Angkor Wat temples complex.
The discovery was announced late Monday in a peer-reviewed paper released early by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The laser scanning revealed a previously undocumented formal urban planned landscape integrating the 1,200-year-old temples.
The airborne lasers produced a detailed map of a vast cityscape, including highways and previously undiscovered temples, hidden beneath dense vegetation atop Phnom Kulen mountain in Siem Reap province. It was the lost city of Mahendraparvata.
The laser technology, known as lidar, works by firing laser pulses from an aircraft to the ground and measuring the distance to create a detailed, three-dimensional map of the area. It’s a useful tool for archaeologists because the lasers can penetrate dense vegetation and cover swaths of ground far faster than they could be analyzed on foot. Lidar has been used to explore other archaeological sites, such as Stonehenge.
In April 2012, the Australian researchers loaded the equipment onto a helicopter, which spent days crisscrossing the dense forests from 800 meters above the ground. The team then confirmed the findings with an on-foot expedition through the jungle.
The Expedition and further interviews, as well as more information can be seen in the video bellow.