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IAS Thursdays Nov 7 2013: LiDAR, Water and the Demise of Greater Angkor


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Available for download as audio, video, or original.

LiDAR, Water and the Demise of Greater Angkor

A talk by Roland Fletcher, Director of the Greater Angkor Project, and Professor of Theoretical and World Archaeology, University of Sydney, Australia.  Professor Fletcher will give the keynote talk for the Symposium: Resilience and Sustainability: What Are We Learning from the Maya and Other Ancient Cultures?

Mapping of vast archaeological sites such as Angkor, Cambodia, buried for centuries and shrouded in thick tropical vegetation, used to take decades of painstaking survey work to complete. Now, with airborne laser technology known as LiDAR, data for such maps can be collected in days by illuminating a target with a laser and analyzing the reflected light. The 2012 LiDAR survey of Angkor has given scientists fundamental new insights into the water crises of the 13th to 16th centuries, originally revealed at Angkor by a combination of dendrochronology and excavation. Tree rings have shown that from the early 14th century until the early 16th century Southeast Asia was experiencing extreme and unpredictable variability in the monsoons from mega-wet to severe drought. Archaeology has revealed alterations to the great reservoirs (baray) and damage to the southern canals of the network of Greater Angkor. Now LiDAR has shown that major defensive works were in progress and that severe erosion was occurring within the urban area. The significance of the demise of Greater Angkor is the insight it offers into the vulnerability to extreme climatic instability of giant low-density cities that are dependent on huge and intractable infrastructure.

Dr. Fletcher’s lecture was supported in part by the Imagine Fund and a GPS Alliance Travel Grant from the University of Minnesota, with additional support from the Department of History.

This talk occurred Thursday, November 7, 2013 at 4:00 pm in Cowles Auditorium, Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Part of the 2013 Symposium on Resilience and Sustainability, organized by the IAS in partnership with the Science Museum of Minnesota, the Maya Society of Minnesota, and Hamline University.

Buddhist_monks_in_front_of_the_Angkor_WatFollowed by Welcome and Opening Remarks at the Symposium on Resilience and Sustainability.

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