Building blocks of Angkor Wat were shipped in by canal – life – 20 October 2012 – New Scientist
IT IS never too late to find a shortcut. Centuries after the construction of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, archaeologists have uncovered traces of a series of canals that suggest the 5 million tonnes of sandstone used to build the temples took a far shorter route than previously thought.
The sandstone blocks each weigh up to 1.5 tonnes and originate from quarries at Mount Kulen. It was thought they were taken 35 kilometres along a canal to Tonlé Sap Lake, rafted another 35 km along the lake, then taken up the Siem Reap River for 15 km, against the current.
Thinking this was unlikely, Etsuo Uchida and Ichita Shimoda of Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan, used satellite images to search for a shortcut. The canals they discovered led from the foot of Mount Kulen to Angkor – a gentle 34-km route, as opposed to the arduous 90-km trek previously suggested. The pair also uncovered more than 50 quarries at the foot of Mount Kulen and along the route. The stones they found matched those in the temples (Journal of Archaeological Science, doi.org/jhf).
Uchida believes all the stone used for the monuments was probably transported along these canals.
Mitch Hendrickson of the University of Illinois, Chicago, says Uchida’s theory could be confirmed by searching for blocks that fell overboard into the canals. He believes the canals were used for several purposes, including the transportation of important minerals such as iron.