New discoveries in the ancient city of Angkor

Shutterstock.com/ R.M. Nunes

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The scenes of Lara Croft in Cambodia in Tomb Raider are likely familiar to us all. Whether you have watched the movie or played the video game you have likely felt the rush of excitement of exploring undiscovered temples in a mystical land. While that may have seemed like a story that could only work in the fiction section of the movie rental store there is far more truth to it than you may realize. Angkor was the former capital of the Khmer civilization from the 9th to the 15th century and therefore held considerable prominence in Asia at the time.

It is believed to be home to over 1,000 historic temples and therefore is an archaeologist treasure trove. Despite some amazing temples discovered already there is still so much more to be found. Angkor Wat is the main temple in the area and is the largest religious monument in the world. Although it was originally constructed as a Hindu temple it was converted to a Buddhist temple in the 12th century as there were new leaders in the area. This is why there are so many incredible artifacts in the city. Instead of destroying what came before they simply altered the amazing structures to their new beliefs. 

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While many of these structures have been discovered more and more continue to be found. Recently there was a small temple in the middle of a body of water that had been discovered and excavated in the past. Experts recently decided though to lower the level of the reservoir to allow further excavations of the temple to determine if there was more to be found. The reservoir was lowered and partially drained.

This has allowed experts to avail of a new vantage point of the temple and its foundations. They have found a number of artifacts that were previously unknown with the most notable being a turtle at the very bottom of the temple. The turtle is around 20 inches wide and 40 inches long and has a small square inscribed on its middle. It is believed that the turtle was placed there to protect the temple. Hindus believe that the turtle is one of the forms that the Hindu god Vishnu can take and by placing the turtle statue there the builders were basically asking Vishnu to protect the temple and ensure its safety and prosperity.
As well as the large turtle the archaeologists have found two metal tridents, a smaller turtle, two fish sculptures, crystals, and a sculpture of a snake-like creature that is called Naga. Experts say that on a previous dig where they approached a different temple using the same draining process they found a turtle too. Inside that turtle, they found precious stones, bronze threads and luxury cloths that all had links to Vishnu religious rituals. They have not yet opened the newly discovered turtle but it is likely that more treasures lie inside waiting to be found.

The water reservoirs around the city of Angkor hold more significance than being the location of pretty temples. These reservoirs, as well as the canals that were built, were part of a very sophisticated system that was in place. It was this system that allowed the city to retain large amounts of water in dry months when other parts of Asia were going through a drought. This allowed the civilization at the time to grow in power as while others struggled, Angkor continued to grow thanks to the blossoming agricultural industry at the time.

Clearly there are many more treasures to be found in Angkor and the surrounding area. Whether Lara Croft will be the one to find them or whether anyone will have to risk their lives in the way she did, is unlikely. Yet one thing is for certain, treasure awaits.