Sunday, August 9, 2015


Reclaimed by nature

At its height, the city of Angkor was larger than Manhattan

Executive summary by darmansjah

CAMBODIA In the 13th century, the magnificent Hindu / Budhist temple complex of Angkor Wat symbolized Cambodia’s Khmer Empire. Its lotus-shaped towers rose within a wall 2.2 miles (3.5 km) long. Outside the complex, the city of Angkor held 750,000 people, supported by a sophisticated array of reservoirs.

But by the 19th century, the city had vanished. Its people had dispersed, and the temple complex had seemingly disappeared. In the humid, monsoon-drenched jungle, innumerable trees and vines had grown through the sandstone blocks and over the beautifully carved dancing girls, or apsaras. Among the worst of the botanical offenders were strangler figs, banyan that begin their lives as seeds cropped in crevices and grow downward as increasingly large vines that eventually merge. Off an on since the 19th century (interrupted by the wars of the later 20th century), archaeologist have struggled to clear the vegetation and rebuild the temple.

Romantic Ruin

Enormous strangler fig vines have colonized the ruins of Angkor Wat. Together with lichens and other jungle vegetation they eat away at the medieval stonework of the temple complex. Helping the temples survive are Buddhist monks who have maintained them for centuries and continue to visit.

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