Drought could have led to ruin of Angkor

  • January 4, 2012
Drought could have led to ruin of Angkor

Mary Beth Day's research into water management in ancient Angkor is published.

The ancient Khmer city of Angkor, site of the world famous Angkor Wat temple, could have collapsed in part due to drought, according to new research carried out by a Gates scholar.

Mary Beth Day [2009], a paleolimnologist who is doing a PhD in Earth Sciences, is one of a team of researchers who have been studying the sophisticated water management system at Angkor, which was first established in the ninth century and was of great regional importance until its collapse in the late 14th to early 15th century.

Previous reasons suggested for its collapse include war and overexploitation of the land. Mary Beth collected sediment samples from across the region by travelling around in a motorised rickshaw. From the samples, she and her colleagues were able to piece together a 1,000-year climate history for the region.

They found that at the time Angkor collapsed, sediment deposit rates dropped significantly, suggesting a dramatic fall in water levels. This led to changes in the ecology of the area and, says Mary Beth, is likely to be a cause of the region’s collapse, although not the only one.

The research was published online earlier this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.It has been carried in The Christian Science Monitor and The New York Times.

Picture credit: J Frasse and www.freedigitalphotos.net.

Latest News

Why AI needs to be inclusive

When Hannah Claus [2024] studied computer science at school she soon realised that she was in a room full of white boys, looking at posters of white men. “I could not see myself in that,” she says. “I realised there were no role models to follow and that I had to become that myself. There […]

New book deal for Gates Cambridge Scholar

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has signed a deal to write a book on Indigenous climate justice. The Longest Night will be published by Atria Books, part of Simon & Schuster, and was selected as the deal of the day by Publishers Marketplace earlier this week. Described as “a stunning exploration of the High North and […]

Why understanding risk for different populations can reduce cardiovascular deaths

The incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) – the number one cause of death globally – can be reduced significantly by understanding the risk faced by different populations better, according to a new study. Identifying individuals at high risk and intervening to reduce risk before an event occurs underpins the majority of national and international primary […]

How can we create a more tolerant world?

Three Gates Cambridge scholars debate how we can create a more tolerant world in the sixth episode* of the podcast So, now what?, launched today. Alina Utrata, José Izquierdo and Farhan Samanani explore the importance of face-to-face interactions, trust and cooperation in building tolerance. They also examine the role of technology and social media in […]