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Agro-Urban Environments and Implications for Resilience in Medieval Cambodia

Sarah Klassen, Arizona State University, Mellon Fellow 2018–2019, Fall

I worked on a project to identify and map medieval temple sites that were part of the Khmer Empire in present-day Cambodia. Knowing where temples were on the landscape was essential to understanding how provincial urban centers drew agricultural surplus from their surrounding landscapes and interacted with Angkor as part of an integrated regional system. During my fellowship, I consolidated previous surveys and used satellite imagery and other remote sensing to map temple communities beyond the Greater Angkor Region and among provincial urban centers. The results suggest that agro-urban areas extended across much of mainland Cambodia, well beyond the Greater Angkor Region. This data allows us to rethink Angkor as one of several complex, extended agro-urban centers, a configuration that may have increased systemic vulnerability to regional-scale collapse. This data also allows us to move away from arbitrary delineations of urbanism in the Khmer Empire toward methods based on gradients and densities.