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Mystery Solved: Angkor Wat Temple's Sandstones Transported Via Network of Canals

Nov 02, 2012 08:26 AM EDT

Archaeologists have finally solved the mystery behind the sandstones in Cambodia's Angkor Wat temple.

Angkor Wat is a 12th century temple that was built using 5 to 10 million bricks, each weighing up to 3,300 pounds.

For decades, archaeologists have wondered how the sandstones were transported to the temple from quarries located at the base of a nearby sacred mountain known as Mount Kulen. It was thought that the stones were carried via a 54-mile canal and river route.

But now a new study by Japanese researchers has found that the stones were taken to the site through a network of hundreds of canals.

"We found many quarries of sandstone blocks used for the Angkor temples and also the transportation route of the sandstone blocks," co-author of the study Estuo Uchida, of Japan's Waseda University, wrote in an email to LiveScience.

Angkor Wat temple was built during the Khmer Empire in the 12th century. King Suryavarman II started work on the 500-acre (200 hectare) temple in the capital city of Angkor, what is now called as Cambodia. It was built to honor the Hindu god Vishnu and was completed after the king's death sometime around the year 1150. The temple was turned into a Buddhist temple by the leaders of the 14th century.

Researcher Uchida and her colleagues studied satellite images and found a network of canals and roads linking the quarries to the temple site. When they surveyed the area, they also noticed about 50 quarries with sandstones similar to the ones used to build Angkor Wat along an embankment at the base of Mt. Kulen, reported LiveScience.

The route proposed by the experts covers a distance of 22 miles, which they believe is more likely the shortcut the Khmers would have used to transport the sandstones rather than the 54-mile route suggested earlier.

This could also explain how a 500-acre temple was built in such a short span of time.

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