Ancient City Of Koh Ker Was Occupied For Centuries Longer Than Previously Thought Scientists Find

The ancient temples of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thome in the ancient capital of SiemReap are just a few of the majestic sites left behind by the powerful Khmer Civilization that inhabited modern-day Cambodia, thousands of years ago.

Image: These are coring locations across Koh Ker and its surrounds. Image Credit: Google Maps.

The ancient Khmer empire flourished from approximately the 9th to 15th centuries.

The ancient civilization controlled the megacity of Angkor which supported at least 0.1% of the global population during 1010–1220.

However, in Cambodia, there is another ancient city called Koh Ker which is equally important, although far lesser known.

Compared to Angkor, the city of Koh Ker may seem small, but despite this, its historical values are of great importance.

And now, experts have discovered essential details that suggest the ancient city of Koh Ker was far more important than what scholars previously believed.

Located some 120 kilometers (75 mi) away from Siem Reap and the ancient site of Angkor, the ancient city of Koh Ker is home to more than 180 ancient sanctuaries placed in an area occupying 81 square kilometers.

Australian researchers have discovered evidence which suggests the mysterious ancient Cambodian capital was occupied much longer than previously thought.

Koh Ker served two decades in the tenth century CE as the empire’s royal capital, and it has been proposed that after the royal seat was translated to Angkor, the city of Koh Ker and its surroundings were abandoned.

Published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Tegan Hall of the University of Sydney, Australia, and colleagues, the new study argues that this may not have been the case.

By analyzing charcoal and pollen remains in sediment cores spanning several centuries in three Koh Ker localities, including the moat of the main central temple, Hall and his fellow researchers found evidence of human occupation and land use over a much greater period.

They discovered a long history of fluctuations in fire regimes and vegetation which are highly indicative of patterns of human occupation.

The researchers suggest that the region was occupied before the Angkor period, at least as far back as late 7th century CE.

Furthermore, human occupation continued seven centuries or more after the royal seat was moved to Angkor.

“When the environmental record is analyzed, it becomes clear that Koh Ker was much more than a temporary 10th century 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,” explains Hall.

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