What could a city that flourished over 600 years ago teach us about our future?
Of the world’s many ancient wonders, the temples at Angkor are some of the most beautiful, intricate, and little known. They were once the places of worship for the citizens of the largest preindustrial city in the world. And now, we’re going to shine a little light on them.
This is a particularly special Saturdays Around the World for Ever Widening Circles. Usually, we take you to places that we have only experienced in the many hours of writing and research we’ve done. This time, we’re heading to a place near to my heart, the Temples of Angkor Archaeological Park in Cambodia.
These magnificent temples are the stone testaments to the remarkable Khmer Empire. The Empire spanned territories covering Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Southern Vietnam from the 9th-15th centuries. 1 During this period, Angkor functioned as the Empire’s capital. It spanned 400 square miles and was once home to 750,000 residents, the largest pre-industrial city in the world.
The Temples that grew from the Khmer power and culture are architectural and artistic marvels. The reliefs that adorn the walls and decorative elements that adorn the towers and hallways have stood the test of time and tell the stories of a rich cultural legacy.
To get us acquainted with this marvelous complex of temples, we will start with a beautiful video from National Geographic that puts all this history and beauty into perspective.
If you can’t wait two weeks between editions of Saturdays Around the World here on EWC, their channel is an amazing place to explore the world and its wonders from the comfort of your own home! Click here to check it out.
So, what happened to Angkor?
At its peak, Angkor was a marvel of hydro-engineering. Its waterways were a key to its success as a city. Their engineering allowed the residents to survive the cycle of monsoons and drought that characterized the region.
Even with these monumental and technically extraordinary systems, the once powerful capitol began to crumble. But why? Well, the answer can actually serve as a lesson for modern times about population growth, climate change, and the way our cities evolve over the years!
Here’s another one of our favorite creators, Vox, to give us some context.
Legacies Left Behind
There is still a lot we don’t know and don’t understand about the Khmer Empire and its fall. We are left, though, with a remarkable visual record of its prowess and culture. From personal experience, it’s hard not to walk through these temples without imagining what life would have been like for the people who walked the halls at their peak.
Reliefs on walls depict daily life—mothers cooking and scolding their children, men trading and at war—right next to scenes from ancient stories and religious texts. Many of the temples are still in use as active religious sites. It’s not uncommon to see a camera-wielding tourist next to a worshiper lighting incense or making an offering in front of a statue of The Buddha.
It seems ancient sites around the globe excite us because of their mystery. When we walk along their paths we cannot help but wonder what life would have been like when they were built. Sometimes questioning how they were built. We cannot deny how they connect us to humanity as it was far before our time and how similar we still are.
Stay beautiful & keep laughing!
Explore More Amazing Places!
Head over to our Saturdays Around the World library for more remarkable places around our planet. Or, just scroll down this page a little bit to see some articles we recommend checking out next!
- “Khmer Empire.” Gale Encyclopedia of World History: Governments. Encyclopedia.com. 1 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>. ↩
- “In Cambodia, a City of Towering Temples in the Forest | National Geographic.” YouTube, National Geographic, 13 Oct. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=MSpPUFdYpJI. Accessed 19 Dec. 2018. ↩
- “Ta Prohm’s Haunting Ruins Are Also a 1,000-Year-Old Climate Change Warning.” YouTube, Vox, 1 Oct. 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUfTM-BC-ek. Accessed 19 Dec. 2018. ↩