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New Evidence Suggests 'Last Stand' at Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat might not have been just a religious monument.

Recent discoveries by a research team from the University of Sydney put an interesting new spin on the already decorated history of the ancient temple, as experts now believe Angkor Wat may have been modified for defense purposes, reports the IB Times.

With a combination of ground-penetrating radar, airborne laser scanning technology and focused excavation, experts recently uncovered a peculiar structure by the south side of the complex's namesake temple measuring 1500 meters by 600 meters. Though its function remains unknown, the additional wooden fortifications unearthed nearby suggest a final stand against neighboring Ayutthaya, the former Thai capital.

This the most striking discovery associated with Angkor Wat to date,” Roland Fletcher, one of the leaders of the research team, told the IB Times.

Angkor Wat is the first and only known example of an Angkorian temple being systematically modified for use in a defensive capacity,” Fletcher added. “The available evidence suggests it was a late event in the history of Angkor, either between AD 1297 and 1585, or perhaps sometime between AD 1585 and the 1630s. Either date makes the defenses of Angkor Wat one of the last major constructions at Angkor and is perhaps indicative of its end.”

Residential homes were also found onsite and are speculated to have served as accommodation for workers of the temple. According to Fletcher, this also challenges historians' understanding of the temple complex and its community, as the structures suggest Angkor Wat was not strictly reserved for the elite of the time, as previously believed.

As excavation continues and new discoveries are made, the team believes a new chapter will be added to the legacy of Southeast Asia's most famous temple.

[Photo via Flickr user Jonjon Pascua]

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