Radar Illuminates Ancient Cambodian Site

By Bower, B. | Science News, February 21, 1998 | Go to article overview

Radar Illuminates Ancient Cambodian Site


Bower, B., Science News


A mix of rocket science and archaeology has provided the recipe for insight into an ancient Cambodian civilization and its prehistoric predecessors. Maps generated by an airborne radar system developed by NASN's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., have given researchers unprecedented glimpses of massive waterworks and temple remains in Angkor.

"The flexibility of the radar technology for research purposes is extraordinary," says archaeologist Elizabeth Moore of the University of London, who directs the ongoing Angkor investigations.

Moore described her radar-inspired archaeological finds at a JPL news conference last week.

Angkor ranges over about 100 square miles of floodplain and dense forest in northern Cambodia. Its approximately 1,000 temples were built from the 8th to the 13th centuries A.D., as was its massive waterworks system. Angkor Wat, the best-known of the temples, dates to the 12th century A.D.

Three-dimensional radar portraits of moisture, vegetation, and elevation patterns at Angkor were taken in late 1996 from a NASA aircraft. Preliminary, less precise radar data for the region came from a 1994 space shuttle flight.

In December 1997, Moore explored a modest earthen mound near Angkor Wat that the radar had identified.

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