Angkor is one of the most important and the greatest archaeological sites in the world. This by the way the world’s largest (400 square kilometers) temple complex (almost a 1000 temples) was between IX and XV century the capital of the Khmer Empire. Probably, in the eleventh century, numbering one million inhabitants of Angkor was the largest city in the contemporary world.
Hidden in the depths of the sea, buried under hillsides, swallowed up by the jungle, or consumed by the wrath of the heavens – lost cities have fascinated, ever since Plato told the story of Atlantis:
Now in this island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful empire which had rule over the whole island and several others. […] But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all the warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea.
Many people have gone in search of lost cities — believing in tall tales and ancient legends. Con-men, archaeologists, showmen, and adventurers have traveled over the mountains of Afghanistan, through the jungles of Cambodia, across the deserts of Jordan, and into the very strangest parts of the world, full of hope. But as many have discovered, finding a lost city can be the easy part — what happens next is when things get interesting…
I’ve noticed that whenever a discovery like this one is made, there’s a tone of shock and words like “unprecedented” start being flung around. The problem is that this kind of writing is predicated on the assumption that only European people and cultures have a history worth mentioning, and that anything noteworthy happening elsewhere is some kind of reversal of a natural order in which Europe is both first and central to any comparison.
Notice that this is touched on in the first paragraph of the article, without actually naming what the assumptions consist of:
Archaeologists in Cambodia
have found multiple, previously undocumented medieval cities not far
from the ancient temple city of Angkor Wat, the Guardian can reveal, in
groundbreaking discoveries that promise to upend key assumptions about
south-east Asia’s history.
The Australian archaeologist Dr Damian Evans, whose findings will be published in the Journal of Archaeological Science
on Monday, will announce that cutting-edge airborne laser scanning
technology has revealed multiple cities between 900 and 1,400 years old
beneath the tropical forest floor, some of which rival the size of
Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh.
And because these assumptions have raged unchecked for centuries, you have what was apparently the largest empire in the 12th century lying undiscovered in Cambodia for hundreds of years because “no one” expected it to be there.
It might seem like a petty gripe, but consider the sheer size and scope of it:
Try and imagine that no one knew Ancient Rome existed until like, a year ago.
In 2012, scientists confirmed the alleged existence of another temple city near Angkor Wat.
Alleged by whom? My guess is probably the people who live in the area and knew it was there all along, but it doesn’t “count” until it’s been accounted for by Australian, French, American, and British academics, who are the only ones I could find quoted on this excavation in various articles.