30 Facts About Angkor—The Ancient Mega-City ‘Covered’ In Thousands of Ancient Temples

Angkor, the lost city of the ancient kingdom of Cambodia

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The first actual reports in Europe of today’s famous Angkor Wat temples dates back to 1601 when a Spanish Franciscan named Marcelo de Ribadeneyra mentioned it in a book as “a great city in the kingdom of Cambodia,” with “curiously carved walls” and “large buildings of which only ruins remained.”

Courtesy of www.AirPano.com

The information had come to him from Spanish and Portuguese missionaries who came to Longvek, the capital of the kingdom of Cambodia, a few kilometers north of Phnom Penh.

Today, we know that Angkor is a city unlike no other.

In this article, I’ve summed up thirty of the most important things you should know about Angkor, the city decorated with thousands of ancient temples.

The Ancient City of Angkor was founded in the late ninth century AD, flourishing in the region from approximately the ninth to the 15th centuries.

The city was so big that it supported 0.1% of the entire world population between 1010—1220.

The word Angkor is derived from the Sanskrit word Nagara and means ‘City‘.

The city of Angkor was abandoned in 1431 AD, and was consequently devoured by nature.

Today, what remains of this once massive mega city is found amid forests and farmland north of the Great Lake (Tonlé Sap)

The City of Angkor is a cultural treasure-trove featuring a number of different architectural styles: Bakheng, Pre Rup, Banteay Srei, Khleang, Baphuon, Angkor Wat, Bayon and post Bayon.

The Faces of the temple of Bayon. Image credit: Shutterstock.

The temples of Angkor are its greatest treasure.

The temples of the Angkor area number over one thousand, and differ in site from nondescript piles of brick rubble scattered through rice fields, to the majestic temple of Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat means “temple city”.

Angkor Wat is said to be the world’s largest single religious monument.

Angkor Wat was built between 1113 and 1150 by King Suryavarman II.

The ancient builders of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat used far greater amounts of stone than all the Egyptian pyramids combined.

Angkor Wat is believed to have been constructed out of at around 5 million and perhaps as many as 10 million sandstone blocks.

This means that the entire megacity of Angkor used up far greater amounts of stone than all the pyramids of Egypt put together.

Furthermore, the monumental site occupied an area significantly greater than modern-day Paris.

Angkor is also home to the ancient temple complex of 200-Smiling faces: Bayon.

Bayon is best known for its 54 towers and more than two hundred Buddha faces which give off a sensation as if they were staring at you with a relaxed, calm, and beatific look.

The temple is dedicated to Vishnu– one of the principal deities of Hinduism, and the Supreme Being in its Vaishnavism tradition.

Angkor Wat features walls nearly half a mile long on each side, perfectly portraying Hindu Cosmology. The central towers of Angkor Wat are believed to represent Mount Meru, considered the home of the gods. The outer walls of the temple are believed to represent the mountains enclosing the world, while the moat is believed to represent the oceans beyond.

The entire city is home to miles of reliefs that illustrate scenes and depictions found in ancient Hindu literature.

Angkor Chau Say Tevoda
Angkor Chau Say Tevoda is a Hindu temple which was built in the mid-12th century at the famous Angkor Wat site of Siem Reap in Cambodia. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons. CC BY 2.0

In Angkorian times, all non-religious buildings, including the residence of the king, were constructed of perishable materials, such as wood, “because only the gods had a right to residences made of stone.”

We are still learning and exploring the city. In 2007, an international team of researchers used satellite photographs and other modern techniques to explore the city.

They concluded that the ancient city of Angkor had been the largest pre-industrial city in the world, home to an elaborate infrastructure system connecting an urban sprawl of at least 1,000 square kilometers (390 sq. miles) to the well-known temples at its core.

Angkor was home to one of the most sophisticated water management networks in the ancient world.

Because of this, many scholars consider the city to be a ‘hydraulic city’.

This water management system was used to for systematically stabilizing, storing, and dispersing water throughout the area.

By the year 1000 Angkor must have been one of the largest inhabited cities in the world, composed of its incredible city grid layout of perfectly straight lines, experts estimate the city may have easily housed around 500,000 inhabitants

Rightfully called an ancient megacity, thanks to newly identified agricultural systems in the Angkor area, experts agree that the city may have supported up to one million people.

Angkor had extensive canals and two large deposits located east and west, which could contain millions of liters of water to irrigate crops during times of drought.

The ruins of Angkor house the huge smiling face of the king-god Jayavarman VII, who differed from his predecessors by converting to Buddhism.

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