The Khmer Heritage

Angkor presents a series of capital cities situated on the plain between the Phnom Kulen mountain and the Great Lake “ Tonle Sap”. The ancient metropolitan centres were constructed between 8th-13th centuries in an area where permanent rivers flow from the forested uplands across the flat alluvial plain to the lake, an area of more then 5,000 square kilometers. Throughout present-day Siem Reap province are remains of religious monuments, fortifications, water tanks, roads, bridges and other public works built by the ancient Khmer. The escarpment formed by the Phnom Kulen is covered with dense evergreen and semi-evergreen forest. Dry dipterocap and deciduous forests grow on the plateaux above, interspersed with patches of secondary forest which has resulted from shifting agricultural practices. The broad alluvial plain forms a band of cultivated land which, in addition to rice paddy includes: wetlands (natural and man-made);disturbed and secondary forest scub used for fuel wood and grazing. The Basic drainage pattern consists of a number of streams which rise in the hills and flow across a series of alluvial fans to the lake. The largest river id the Puok River which is supposed to have been diverted in ancient times to become the Siem Reap River. The climate is sub-humid and controlled by the tropical monsoon system with high seasonal rainfall reaching a peak in September. In the rainy season, large area are flooded by the rivers and by arise in the level of the Tonel Sap river. The dry season lasts for 6 months from December to early June and causes severe ecological stress. Vegetation of the region includes the fresh water flooded forests around the Tonel Sap lake which are particularly renowned as one of the most extensive example of this type of habitat in the world. Their existence is due to annual flood waters of the Mekong river flow back into the lake. The raises the water level by 6.7 meters which causes a three fold increase in the surface area of the lake. Angkor is thus situated on an eco-tone between the Kulen watershed and the Tonel Sap, so it ancient inhabitants could make maximum use of the wide variety of ecological niches and natural resources available. The forest and fish-rich wetland provided an attractive location for prehistoric settlement. Archaeological surveys show that this region was undoubtedly occupied before the establishment of the Angkorian cities. As the wealth of the Khmer Kingdoms grew, a succession of “Kings of the Kings” chose to live in and around Angkor. The most successful extended their Empire over much of Indochina and what is now Thailand and to the Malay peninsula.