So we’ve conducted analysis on who lived in the city of Angkor – The Khmer Empire. We’ve also explored their grandest temple and its links to planning – Angkor Wat. Now, we will explore a side to the ancient region that shocked me. Looking at the urban form, the impressive water network and their complex hydraulic engineering, interesting points can be explored about the planning of the Khmers.
In the past few decades, archeologists have been uncovering information about how vast the empire reached due to their urban planning. Firstly, we have to consider the incredibly large East and West Barays as seen in the image above. They surround many temple complexes, like Angkor Wat. Just by looking at these huge reservoirs, their straight borders and the straight canals flowing between them, you should be able to tell they were man-made. The West Baray is the bigger of the two and is over 16 square kilometres (incredible prowess), while the East Baray is now empty, which has lead to information and theories.
Due to Cambodia only being explored in greater depth in recent times, many historians have many different views on the use for the water. Bernard P. Groslier wrote about how the water was used for irrigation and agriculture. The Khmers cleverly harnessed the water to help with rice farms and food production. The incredible system of interconnected waterways can be commended as it ensured the success of the Empire (until a long term drought), along with some great urban planning!
On top of agriculture and sanitation purposes, the water is believed to have been incredibly important for religion. I mean, the colossal labor power used to build the empire was likely to have been driven by their admiration for the gods. It can be considered a true reflection of the Empire’s wealth and power. This is not too dissimilar to the idea of rich people and their fascination with the containment of water. Just look at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas!