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suburban george3

Angkor Wat failure due to Urban Sprawl?

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Thanks to new NASA imagery, the theory that Angkor Wat may have failed as a city due to Urban Sprawl and land overexploitation has gained more credibility. The city was covered a large area and was served it's water needs by a complex system that may have become to cumbersome/costly to upkeep. This is forboding news as many cities on our planet today are sprawling at alarming rates. Will we learn from the mistakes of the past or are we heading for disaster in a multitude of cities (especially here in the USA)???

FOX NEWS article about Angkor Wat's demise due to Urban Sprawl

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Fascinating - I have heard a few other theories regarding the downfall of Angkor. The satellite mapping is great to see - it will take some time, but it will prove exciting to see how this changes current ideas or maps of what might have been there.

This theory is provocative - most urban growth in many parts of the world is too improvisational and unsustainable, and hard economic short-term necessities govern that, at least as much as lifestyle choices do, so the possibility that a lack of sustainability may have doomed what was probably one of the great cities of the pre-industrial world is a bad omen, though we could probably spot other examples (Timbuktu perhaps, and the dust-bowl era exodus from the Plains might qualify as well). It should be noted that Angkor was agrarian, monastic and political in its' orientation, unlike major metropolises today, so specific land stresses behind the collapse would be very different.

Cambodia also has an equally unique topography - Angkor was not far upstream from the Tonle Sap - a very large inland lake. At its' peak the lake is 60-70 miles long and 5-20 miles wide, but it shrinks considerably during dry times of the year (fluctuating from 2700 sq km to 16,000 sq km dpending on season); it is re-filled by tidal backflow from the Tonle Sap River (a branch of the Mekong that reverses it's flow twice a year). Thus the local ecology was very unusually delicate - perhaps akin (in it's overall delicacy) to southern Louisiana, the Everglades, parts of the Netherlands or Venice; thus specific stresses at the possible root of the decline might be - to some extent - very much unique to Angkor.

The king Jayavarman VII was responsible for having the city built, with an army of slaves, and a combination of despotism, epic-scale imperial decadence and revolts within/invasions from the Khmer Empire's former imperial subjects (especially Thailand and the Chams from southern Vietnam) are the other, interrelated theories behind the decline.

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