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Radar reveals the Kapilapura mound at Angkor Wat


Angkor is a huge array of ancient temple and residential complexes covering about 100 square miles in Cambodia near the Tonle Sap lake, with a population of 1 million by the 13th century AD using a massive ancient water system of interconnected channels and reservoirs. Today most of Angkor is covered by tropical forest canopy, and is inaccessible due to local wars and poor roads. 1994 SIR/C radar images from the space shuttle revealed previously unrecorded temples, moats, and channels. These were further explored on December 6, 1996 by NASA's Airborne Synthetic Aperture Radar (AIRSAR).

[Fig.1: Central Angkor with its temple complexes of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, reservoirs, and canals.]

Images released in February, 1998 show older structures near the center of Angkor. At left, a false-color radar image shows the famous 12th century AD temple of Angkor Wat in the center, surrounded by a rectangular moat. Forested areas appear yellow-brown while cleared areas are blue, including the moat and the temple area. The newly discovered Kapilapura mound in the upper right corner dates from the 9th-10th century AD.

The image on the right shows topographic data for the area, with the Kapilapura mound more easily visible as a bright yellow-purple spot in the upper right. Comparative elevation data show the newly discovered Kapilapura mound is 6 meters high, compared with the well-studied Angkor Wat temple, some 27 meters in height. In the topographic image at right, each color cycle (for example, from green to green) represents a 20-meter (66-foot) change in elevation.The area shown in both images is 1.25 by 1.3 km (0.7  by  0.8 miles).

[Fig.2: Radar and topographic images from Angkor Wat (NASA/JPL image P-49592bc).]


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