Mar 14, 2007
Was Angkor Wat abandoned because of climate change?
Climate change was one of the key factors in the abandonment of Cambodia's ancient city of Angkor, Australian archaeologists said today.
The centuries-old city, home to more than 700,000 people and capital of the Khmer empire from about 900AD, was mysteriously abandoned about 500 years ago.
It has long been believed the Khmers deserted the city after a Thai army ransacked it, but University of Sydney archaeologists working the site say a water crisis was the real reason it was left to crumble.
"It now appears the city was abandoned during the transition from the medieval warm period to the little ice age," Associate Professor of Archaeology Roland Fletcher said in a statement released by the university.
Professor Fletcher said that to sustain a population of 750,000 the Khmers had a meticulously organised water management system.
But blockages found in two large structures that controlled the water system in central Angkor suggested the water management network had begun to breakdown late in the city's history.
Professor Fletcher said the discoveries complemented previous field work which had led his team to conclude the city was abandoned when new monsoon patterns, brought about by climate change, had made the site unsustainable.