• Name: Paul McLerran
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Monday, December 17, 2007

Exploring the Roots of Angkor

It may surprise some to know that Angkor Wat was a center of the world's largest urban settlement -- the largest known urban area of the preindustrial era. Recent mapping work has revealed that the sprawling urban metropolis influenced an area of 1,100 square miles, with a massive irrigation system that had no ancient rival. The results of archaeological investigation suggests that the great Angkor civilization eventually collapsed due to overpopulation and environmental issues -- in a sense, it collapsed under its own weight and the inability of the population to effectively manage its resources. There are, however, investigations being conducted that are exploring the opposite end of this spectrum -- how did this civilization begin? What are the origins?

Beginning in December, 2007 and continuing into February of 2008, Dr. Charles Higham of the University of Otago, New Zealand, will be leading an expedition of Earthwatch teams in Thailand to recover and analyze evidence of a sophisticated indigenous civilization that, he suggests, may have played a major role in the foundations of the culture associated with this spectacular site. The 2008 investigations will focus on the remains of Ban Non Wat, a large mound ringed by banks and moats. A major objective will be to determine the relationship of the site to other nearby prehistoric sites. Ancient settlements dot the landscape of Thailand, many of which were large and complex enough to leave clues of social organization, technology and trade as early as 2000 B.C. Ban Non Wat represents one of these settlements. The team will excavate and search for human burials, food remains, pottery, metals, and other artifacts. They will dig alongside local villagers and process finds at the field lab. They will stay in the Phimai Inn, which boasts a large swimming pool, hot showers, and air-conditioned rooms, with Western or Thai breakfasts and Thai dinners served under the pavilion next to the swimming pool. The hotel will provide lunch to take to the dig site each day. Volunteers will also have convenient access to the market and to Angkor Wat itself for sightseeing.

If you are interested in joining the team, see the website for more information.


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