University of Cambridge > > Department of Archaeology - Garrod seminar series > Low-density urbanism, risk and climate instability

Low-density urbanism, risk and climate instability

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  • UserProf Roland Fletcher, University of Sydney
  • ClockThursday 05 May 2022, 12:00-13:30
  • HouseZoom.

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Lydia Clough.

Angkor, the capital of the Khmer Empire between the 9th and the 14th century was a giant, low-density, urban complex covering about a thousand square kilometres – with a population of about 750,000 within a region containing over 900,000 people. The population of Angkor depended on the vast infrastructure of the urban water management network to minimise the risks of seasonal variation in rainfall and sustain the economy of the city. By the 13th century parts of the urban network were complex and over 500 years old. The former tropical forest of the region had been removed and replaced by a landscape of rice fields with economically useful trees and shrubs around the houses.

In the 13th century the change from the Medieval Warm Phase to the Little Ice Age began, causing severe climatic instability for more than a century. Mega-monsoons were interspersed with severe droughts. The mega-monsoons tore out the main canal across Angkor and caused serious erosion in centre of the city, disrupting the water management network. The urban population’s protection against drought was broken and the economic demands of the city could not be sustained. Between the 14th and the 16th century Angkor was largely abandoned and the urban heartland of the Khmer Empire reverted to forest and villages. The impact of severe climate change on the combination of low-density urbanism, extensive landscape clearance and dependence on massive infrastructure has some potential significance for industrial urbanism in the 21st century. Register:

This talk is part of the Department of Archaeology - Garrod seminar series series.

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