Cambodia's Lost City: Lasers Reveal 1200-Year-Old City Hidden Underneath Siem Reap Jungle [REPORT]

By Philip Ross on June 18, 2013 12:44 PM EDT

cambodia's ancient city
A lost city in Cambodia was discovered near Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious complex (pictured). Researchers used laser mapping technology to locate the ancient city of Mahendraparvata. (Photo: Reuters)

A lost city in Cambodia's dense jungle was recently uncovered using laser scanning technology. The 1,200-year-old city, believed to be the ancient city of Mahendraparvata, includes canals, roadways and temples. Cambodia's lost city has laid dormant for over a millennium after it was consumed long ago by the impenetrable vegetation.

Using a technology called lidar, scientists from the University of Sydney's archaeological research center in Cambodia scanned the area near the famed early 12th century Angkor Wat temple compound, the largest religious complex in the world. According to AP, the researchers began their quest to find Cambodia's lost city in April 2012. They spent days scanning the jungle-blanketed terrain from 2,600 feet above the ground in a helicopter. They then confirmed what they saw on the computer monitors with an on-foot expedition through the dense vegetation.

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Mahendraparvata, which means "Mountain of the Great Indra," is located in Siem Reap Province about 25 miles north of the Angkor Wat temples on the slopes of Phnom Kulen Mountains. It is an ancient city of the Khmer Empire era in Cambodia, whose origins date back to around 800 AD, making it older than Angkor Wat by about 350 years.

Lidar (a combination of the words "light" and "radar") measures distances using lasers that can penetrate vegetation and give a detailed image of the ground below. It fires rapid laser pulses at the landscape and then times how long they takes to bounce back. After repeating the process over and over again, the technology produced detailed images of the earth below.

And what did the researchers find? Hundreds of mysterious mounds several meters high, some of them hidden temples, across the remote landscape.

"With this instrument - bang - all of a sudden we saw an immediate picture of an entire city that no one knew existed, which is just remarkable," University of Sydney archaeologist Damian Evans, the study's director, told The Age.

When the team set out on foot to confirm their findings, they came across about two dozen more temples. Some of the temples had already been looted, but a few were untouched.

Researchers believe the ancient civilization that once inhabited Mahendraparvata vanished after deforestation and the crumbling of important infrastructure caused the society to collapse.

This isn't the first time lasers have uncovered a lost city. IScience Times reports that high-tech mapping technology was responsible for the discovery of Honduras' legendary lost city of gold, Ciudad Blanca, back in 2012.

Read more from iScience Times:

Mayan Pyramid Destroyed: Why Did Builders In Belize Take Down A 2,300-Year-Old Pyramid?

Mayan Temple Damaged During December 21 Apocalypse Party

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