Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia REUTERS

A city once thought to be lost in the passage of time has been discovered.

A team of archaeologists have uncovered the 1,200-year-old city of Mahendraparvata deep in the jungle of Cambodia. Yahoo News reports that the discovery was made about 25 miles north of the famed Angkor Wat complex, at Phnom Kulen mountain in Siem Reap province. Angkor Wat is the one of the largest religious monuments in the world, according to Discovery.

According to Yahoo, the team used a laser scanner technique known as Lidar, or “light detection and ranging,” in which a helicopter shoots laser light pulses onto the ground below and analyzes the data to produce a three-dimensional map of the targeted area.

"What we have now with this instrument is just 'bang' - all of a sudden, an immediate picture of an entire city that people didn't know was there before, which is remarkable," University of Sydney archaeologist Damian Evans said in a video interview with Australia’s The Age from Cambodia.

"So instead of this kind of very long gradual process, you have this kind of sudden eureka moment where you bring the data up on screen the first time and there it is - this ancient city very clearly in front of you."

The map painted a portrait of a once-thriving metropolis, complete with opulent temples, roads and canals. The Associated Press says that the Lidar technology also revealed that the downtown area of the city is around 14 square miles.

As The Christian Science Monitor points out, the lost city of Mahendraparvata is believed to have been built at around 800 A.D., which is roughly 350 years before the construction of the Angkor Wat complex. Both areas were part of the Khmer Empire that dominated Southeast Asia from about 800 to 1400.

As for what eventually led to the demise of Mahendraparvata and the Khmer Empire in general, points to a pre-publication draft of the team’s findings, which says “The archaeological record shows that episodes of failure were commonplace within the hydraulic infrastructure within the medieval period. ... For several centuries at Angkor, episodic renovation of the water management system offered a series of provisional solutions that were adequate for mitigating the risk of low rainfall on an annual scale. Eventually, however, the civilization was confronted with decadal-scale megadroughts in the 14th and 15th centuries.”

The team’s findings about the Cambodia project are set to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.