Bayon temple at Angkor, constructed in the 12th century.
The ancient city of Angkor likely collapsed due to failure to battle drought, scientists find.
First established in the 9th century, Angkor was capital of the Khmer Empire, the major player in southeast Asia for nearly five centuries. It stretched over more than 385 square miles ~ the most extensive urban complex in the preindustrial world.
Suggested causes for the fall of the Khmer Empire in the late 14th to early 15th centuries have included war and exploitation of the land. Recent evidence suggests that prolonged droughts might have been linked to the decline of Angkor. For instance, tree rings from Vietnam suggest the region experienced long spans of drought interspersed with heavy rainfall.
To learn about how the Khmer managed their water, scientists analyzed a 6-foot-long core sample of sediment taken from the southwest corner of the largest Khmer reservoir, the West Baray, which could hold 1.87 billion cubic feet of water, more than 20 times the amount of stone making up the Great Pyramid of Giza.