Researchers Uncover Ancient City of Khmer Empire in Cambodia

Cailey Rizzo

Archaeologists have uncovered an ancient “lost city" that was once a capital of the Khmer Empire in Cambodia.

Mahendraparvata, or the Mountain of Indra, King of the Gods, was an early site of the ancient empire and was found by on-the-ground surveying and overhead laser scanning, according to a recent report published by archaeology journal, Antiquity. The city's massive temples built from bricks and stones left their imprint on the earth and helped lead researchers to the site.

Nina Hofer/Courtesy of Antiquity Publications Ltd

The imprint shows a sophisticated urban planning system which included neighborhoods, water management systems, agricultural networks and transportation links to other nearby cities.

Researchers have been working to build a more accurate map of the mountainous region in Cambodia — currently known as Phnom Kulen — where the Khmer Empire built many of their early cities, including Mahendraparvata. The ancient empire is estimated to have lasted from the ninth to 15th centuries.

Phnom Kulen plateau to the north-east of Angkor in Cambodia was the location of Mahendraparvata—an early Angkorian capital city and one of the first capitals of the Khmer Empire (ninth to fifteenth centuries AD). | Courtesy of Antiquity Publications Ltd

Before the discovery, archaeologists would often refer to Mahendraparvata as a “lost city” because the only information they had was obtained from artifacts found at other sites around Cambodia.

"The work described here effectively draws to a close 150 years of archaeological mapping work in the Greater Angkor region and sets the stage for more sophisticated spatio-temporal modelling of urban form," the report said.

Researchers believe that the city was one of the first engineered landscapes of the era, and further study of it could reveal more about the Khmer Empire — which is now famous for the temple complex and current tourist attraction Angkor Wat.