January 22, 2008 – The idea of the project is to eventually develop virtual reality archaeological images of the Empire of Angkor. People who love art and history may soon have a wonderful opportunity to travel back 800 years in time to the great Empire of Angkor and King Jayavarman VII of Cambodia.
Collaboration between Thai archaeologists from Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy and Silpakorn University, and Cambodian archaeologists from the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap in a project called the Living Angkor Road has made this possible.
Surveys have been conducted along the 254-kilometre Angkor Road from Cambodia’s Angkor to Thailand’s Phimai. The idea of the project is to eventually develop virtual reality archaeological images of the Empire of Angkor displayed in three dimensions.
King Jayavarman VII was one of the most forceful and productive kings of the Khmer Empire of Angkor. He expanded the empire to its greatest territorial extent and engaged in a building programme that produced numerous temples, highways, rest houses and hospitals. He also rebuilt the city of Angkor Thom and rebuilt and extended a system of highways which radiated outward from the Bayon temple and the royal palace and reached far into the provinces. He constructed 121 rest houses along these roads. During his reign, the king built 102 hospitals throughout his kingdom. He was more than 90 years old when he died around 1215.
Surat Lertlum, the archaeologist from Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy who initiated and leads the project, said archaeological and anthropological knowledge, geo-informatics technology, information technology, and geo-physics technology were utilised to identify the ancient road from Angkor to Phimai that was mentioned in the inscriptions by King Jayavarman VII.
The first step was to identify the historic road and human settlement of the Khmer empire to show how the people lived and how the country looked in the past. Stone bridges, dharmashala (rest houses) and arogyashala (hospitals) were sought out.
“Remote sensing and geographic information system technology are used by archaeologists to pinpoint and identify archaeological sites and as tools for archaeological analysis. Technology itself cannot make the project complete. It requires other aspects of knowledge including archaeology and anthropology as well as surveys in the field talking with people,” said Surat.
Archaeologists and anthropologists went to the field with global-positioning system devices equipped with geographic information systems as well as both satellite maps and vector maps to collect data. Apart from the satellite and vector maps, the project also requires other sources of information such as digital elevation models, old maps, aerial photos and ground surveys.
Once the teams find the exact location of targeted archaeological sites they can record their position and then upload details to the database at Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy. It is available at https://larp.crma.ac.th.
The project was supported by funding from the Thailand Research Fund. The project is now in the second phase. The first and the second phases take one and a half years.