The New Sydney University study has revealed that the ancient Cambodian town of Angkor has experienced a gradual reduction in occupation rather than a sharp collapse.
Researchers have long been discussing the causes of Angkor's death in the 15th century. Historical explanations highlight the role of aggressive neighboring countries, and the abandonment of Angkor in 1431 is presented as a catastrophic demographic collapse.
The new scientific evidence shows that the intensity of land use within the economic and administrative center of the city gradually decreased more than 100 years before the alleged collapse, which implies a completely different end of the city.
Associate Professor Dan Penny of the University of Sydney's Geology School explores sedimentary kernels extracted from the ditch surrounding Angkor Tom, the last and largest of Angkor's walls.
"Changes in land use leave traces of trace amounts of sedimentary deposits that can be measured." Measuring these traces in our drilling leads allows us to reconstruct what people are doing in the landscape for long periods of time, "said Professor Penny .
In a new study published in the prestigious PNAS Associate Professor Penny and co-authors have shown that evidence of forest disturbance, soil erosion and incineration declined during the first decades of the 14th century, suggesting a steady decline in land use in the commercial and administrative center of the ancient city. By the end of the 14th century, the dyke was covered with floating marsh vegetation, indicating that it was no longer supported.
The results show that Angkor's death is not a catastrophic collapse caused by the Ayutthaya invasion or a failure of infrastructure, and a gradual demographic shift from the city's elite.
"Our survey shows that residents have not left Angkor because the infrastructure has failed and infrastructure has failed (or has not been maintained or repaired) because the city elite has already left," said Associate Professor Penny.
The study is co-authored by Dr. Tegan Hall of the University of Sydney's Geology School, Dr. Damian Evans of Ecole française d 'Extreme-Orient and Dr. Martin Pollinghorn of the University of Flinders.
Media Interviews: Katie Booth, +61 419 278 715, [email protected]
Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of the news posted on EurekAlert! through contributing institutions or the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.