City of Koh Ker was occupied for centuries longer than previously thought

October 10, 2018, Public Library of Science
Coring locations across Koh Ker and its surrounds. Background image supplied by Google Earth Credit: Hall et al., 2018

The classic account of the ancient city of Koh Ker is one of a briefly-occupied and abruptly-abandoned region, but in reality, the area may have been occupied for several centuries beyond what is traditionally acknowledged, according to a study published October 10, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Tegan Hall of the University of Sydney, Australia and colleagues.

Koh Ker was part of the Khmer kingdom during the Angkor period in what is now Cambodia. For a mere two decades in the tenth century CE, the city served as royal capital, and it has long been proposed that after the royal seat moved back to Angkor, the city and its surroundings were abandoned. In this study, Hall and colleagues tested this theory by analyzing charcoal and pollen remains in spanning several centuries in three Koh Ker localities, including the moat of the main central temple. From these data, they inferred a long history of fluctuations in fire regimes and vegetation which are highly indicative of patterns of human occupation and land use over time.

The newly-painted picture is of a region that was occupied well before the Angkor period, at least as far back as the late 7th century CE, and continuing seven centuries or more after the royal seat's departure. The authors suggest that the mobility of royal houses may have had less of an impact on regional populations in the Khmer kingdom than previously thought. This study also highlights the utility of palaeoecological tools to reconstruct the occupational history of ancient urban settlements.

Hall adds: "When the environmental record is analyzed, it becomes clear that Koh Ker was much more than a temporary 10th capital of the Khmer kingdom. The settlement history of the site is extensive and complex, beginning in the pre-Angkor period and lasting for centuries beyond the decline of Angkor."

Explore further: Archaeologists at Angkor Wat find large buried statue

More information: Hall T, Penny D, Hamilton R (2018) Re-evaluating the occupation history of Koh Ker, Cambodia, during the Angkor period: A palaeo-ecological approach. PLoS ONE 13(10): e0203962. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0203962

Related Stories

Finding the lost art of Angkor Wat

June 4, 2014

(Phys.org) —Long-lost paintings have been discovered on the walls of Cambodia's ancient Angkor Wat temple, thanks to the keen observations of an ANU researcher.

Ancient lessons for a modern challenge

January 23, 2012

What caused the collapse of the Cambodian city of Angkor, the largest preindustrial city in the world, 600 years ago? Previous research suggests war and overexploitation of the land were to blame, but a new study says drought ...

Lasers uncover hidden secrets of Cambodia's ancient cities

June 12, 2016

Unprecedented new details of medieval cities hidden under jungle in Cambodia near Angkor Wat have been revealed using lasers, archaeologists said Sunday, shedding new light on the civilisation behind the world's largest religious ...

Recommended for you

Oldest evidence for animals found

October 15, 2018

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside, have found the oldest clue yet of animal life, dating back at least 100 million years before the famous Cambrian explosion of animal fossils.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.