DS08 - Sociétés innovantes, intégrantes et adaptatives

Explanatory Model of the urban fabric of Angkor Thom: archaeology of a lost capital – ModAThom

Submission summary

Using archaeology, our project suggests another view of Angkor Thom, the capital of the Khmer kingdom (IXth - XVth century), one of the most iconic urban sites of world town planning history. This capital city existed during a golden age of Asiatic towns whose history, up to now generally reduced to that of their visible monuments, did not come within the field of urban research, which was devoted essentially to Western models. The aims of this project, especially with questioning of the existing chronology, is to develop an explanatory model of the formation and transformation of the urban space, as a socio-spatial process from the conditions of its birth to its abandonment. First, this model should challenge the existing chronology, which is based essentially on studies of statuary, architectural and stylistic changes to the temples, the dynasties of the Khmer kings under epigraphy. Secondly, it should provide a better understanding of the city’s organization, as well as the way it was influenced economically and culturally by its links with the outside world.
The time of the excavation not being one of the study, we must in ModAThom project studied a representative sample of the voluminous material sources product during 15 years of archaeological activity (70 excavations or observations). The urban development model will be based on material remains accumulated in the ground, on the surface and in its archaeological depth, with data about buildings (architecture, urban blocks, streets, canals, tanks, etc.) and material remains (Khmer and imported ceramics, metal, bones, etc.). In conjunction with other existing sources (history of monuments, epigraphy). This project also will incorporate an excavation indispensable for understanding the origins of the development of the city that will be carried out at a strategic location within the Royal Palace. This excavation will be completed by a paleoenvironmental study.
The success of this project is ensured by the scientific and institutional complementarities of the researchers in the consortium and for some of them, their long collaboration. This research requires the development of methods and technological tools (database, GIS, exploration of LIDAR data) that be will used to the scientist and economic valorization of the project. The data generated in the project will be sustained and accessible via the TGIR (Huma-Num). The website ModAThom, showcase our research will include dynamic mapping searchable by content (Webmapping), the speech will be adapted to tourism, providing input into the creation of tourist trails.
The program takes place over four years. The first three years will be devoted to the study of data acquired for 15 years in additional excavation and development of methods and technological tools; last year in the scientific production and the social or economic exploitation of results (website, publications, conference).
The novelty and ground-breaking potential of the ModAThom project can be seen at several levels. It introduces a radical change in the study of the Angkor site, no longer based exclusively on sources from traditional domains (history, epigraphy, iconography, ethnography, etc.), but also on material remains. It offers a new vision, through (i) its spatial and temporal scope, (ii) its interdisciplinary analysis and the multi-factor and multi-scale synthesis of the phenomena over time, (iii) the perspectives that it opens up by placing the site data within a first broad periodization of its history, thereby suggesting new avenues for research. More broadly, this project is unique in South-East and East Asia and could serve as an example for many ancient urban sites.

Project coordination

Philippe Husi (Cités, Territoires, Environnement et Sociétés)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


GéHCO Laboratoire GéoHydrosystèmes Continentaux
LI Laboratoire d'Informatique Université de Tours
ArAr Laboratoire Archéologie et Archéométrie
LAT-CITERES Cités, Territoires, Environnement et Sociétés
EFEO Ecole Française d'Extrême-Orient
LMJL - UNantes Universite de Nantes - Laboratoire de Mathématiques Jean Leray
APSARA Autorité nationale pour la protection du site et la gestion de la région d’Angkor

Help of the ANR 527,904 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: January 2018 - 48 Months

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