A lost city in Cambodia has been found again and not by intrepid explorers stumbling upon it in the jungle, but by Australian archaeology researchers using aerial laser technology to find it before hitting the ground. The Australian team used LIDAR, an aerial technology often used aboard satellites that rapidly pulses lasers at a landscape below, measuring the time it takes for the pulses to bounce back. The measurements are then analyzed to create a full picture of the terrain, and in this case, evidence of an ancient city buried beneath the jungle.
"With this instrument – bang – all of a sudden we saw an immediate picture of an entire city that no one knew existed, which is just remarkable," said Damian Evans director of the University of Sydney's archaeological research center in Cambodia to The Age.
Over a week, a helicopter equipped with LIDAR flew over a 370-square-kilometer area collecting data points and more than 5,000 photographs. The LIDAR showed hundreds of mounds several meters high on the mountain of Phnom Kulen along with signs of roads and canals, which confirmed the existence of Mahendraparvata, a city that had been inhabited 1,200 years ago, 350 years earlier than the famous Angar Wat temple complex.
With the LIDAR evidence, the team then went and hacked their way through knee-deep bogs and dense, land-mine covered jungle to the site and found temples, caves and more ruins from the ancient city, some looted hundreds of years ago, others perfectly intact.
The researchers say there is now much more work to do. Because the LIDAR covered a limited area, the city could extend well beyond those boundaries and the part they visited may not even be the city's center. More LIDAR research and more excavations will have to be done to find out.
Below is a ten-minute video about the trip to find the lost city.