2015 Lidar Coverages

For over half a millennium, the great medieval capital of Angkor lay at the heart of a vast empire stretching across much of mainland SE Asia. Recent research has revealed that the famous monuments of Angkor were merely the epicentre of an immense settlement complex, with highly elaborate engineering works designed to manage water and mitigate the uncertainty of monsoon rains. Compelling evidence is now emerging that other temple complexes of the medieval Khmer Empire may also have formed the urban cores of dispersed, low-density settlements with similar systems of hydraulic engineering.

Using innovative airborne laser scanning (‘lidar’) technology, CALI will uncover, map and compare archaeological landscapes around all the major temple complexes of Cambodia, with a view to understanding what role these complex and vulnerable water management schemes played in the growth and decline of early civilisations in SE Asia. CALI will evaluate the hypothesis that the Khmer civilisation, in a bid to overcome the inherent constraints of a monsoon environment, became locked into rigid and inflexible traditions of urban development and large-scale hydraulic engineering that constrained their ability to adapt to rapidly-changing social, political and environmental circumstances.

By integrating data and techniques from fast-developing archaeological sciences like remote sensing, palaeoclimatology and geoinformatics, this work will provide important insights into the reasons for the collapse of inland agrarian empires in the middle of the second millennium AD, a transition that marks the emergence of modern mainland SE Asia. The lidar data will provide a comprehensive and internally-consistent archive of urban form at a regional scale, and offer a unique experimental space for evaluating socio-ecological resilience, persistence and transformation over two thousand years of human history, with clear implications for our understanding of contemporary urbanism and of urban futures.

During flight operations in March-May 2015, CALI will extend the existing 370 sq km of archaeological lidar data in Cambodia to around 2000 sq km in total, and then undertake field verification and other activities until the end of the project life-cycle in 2020. The five year project is funded by a 1.5 million Euro grant from the European Research Council to the EFEO.

Milestones Achieved
  • February 2015: The EFEO and the European Research Council sign Grant Agreement No 639828 within European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme, establishing the Cambodian Archaeological Lidar Initiative from 01 March 2015 to 29 February 2020.
  • February-March 2015: Through a competitive bidding process, surveying and engineering companies are selected to undertake the data acquisition phase.
  • March-April 2015: Flight operations and data acquisition for CALI are completed as planned, according to schedule and under budget.
  • June 2015: The completion of the data acquisition phase for CALI is announced at the 24th Technical Session of the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor (ICC-Angkor).
  • July-September 2015: The lidar data is delivered to the three partners in CALI: the EFEO, the APSARA National Authority, and the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.
  • September 2015: The CALI project opens a dedicated archaeological computing laboratory at the EFEO’s Siem Reap Centre for the purposes of research, administration and training.
  • December 2015: The first major findings from the CALI campaign are presented at the 25th Technical Session and its 22nd Plenary Session of the ICC-Angkor.
  • December-January 2015-6: Field investigations, including excavations by partner institutions based on the lidar data, begin at various sites including Phnom Kulen, Longvek,  Preah Khan of Kompong Svay, and Banteay Chhmar.
  • June 2016: The first peer-reviewed outcomes from the CALI program are released in print.