Power & Place
Even today, centuries after the collapse of Khmer empire, Angkor Wat endures as a striking symbol of power and authority. It has outlasted the rulers of the Khmer Empire and has become intertwined with notions of Cambodian nationhood and identity. In this module, we explore the physical and symbolic aspects of the Khmer Empire’s greatest city through three themes:
1) A Living City, 2) Colour and History and 3) Architecture and Power
- Theme One -
A Living City
The city of Angkor is perhaps best known today for the extensive network of stone temples that dot the Cambodian landscape. Although enormously impressive structures, they are not the sum total of the city as it existed in the thirteenth century. Instead, they form the religious skeleton of what was once a living city. The stone remains of Angkor have been the subject of extensive scholarship, but recent archaeological surveys have unearthed evidence of large numbers of wooden dwellings that lay within Angkor Wat’s extensive temple complex and which are thought to have been home to thousands of Angkor Wat’s massive workforce. Go through the video and accompanying article below and try to answer the following questions:
- Reading -
Damian Evans, Christophe Pottier, Roland Fletcher, Scott Hensley, Ian Tapley, Anthony Milne and Michael Barbetti, ‘A comprehensive archaeological map of the world’s largest preindustrial settlement complex at Angkor, Cambodia,’ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 104, no. 36 (2007): 14277-14282
- Questions -
- Does this video square with your impression of Angkor Wat? What kind of structures do you see around you in the video? Why are such structures absent today?
- Using what you learned from the previous module on water and climate, think about the patterns of settlement identified by Evans etc. Why was Angkor set out the way it was?
- How did the use of different building materials reflect the different uses for buildings?
- Greater Angkor has been described as a “low-density urban complex”. What does this mean? How was the city set up? Why do you think this was the case? Does this remind you of any other cities?