Science  19 Oct 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6105, pp. 312

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  1. Ancient Canals Transported Building Blocks to Angkor Wat


    Scientists have long known that the sandstone blocks used to build the famous Angkor Wat temple in the ancient Cambodian city of Angkor came from quarries at the foot of a sacred mountain nearby. But how did the 5 million to 10 million blocks, some weighing more than 1500 kilograms, reach Angkor? Researchers report in a paper in press at the Journal of Archaeological Science that when they examined Google Earth maps of the area, they saw lines that looked like a transportation network. Field surveys revealed a series of canals, connected by short stretches of road and river, that lead from the quarries straight to Angkor. The roads and canals—some of which still hold water—would've carried blocks on their 37-kilometer journey to the budding temple. Researchers don't know whether the blocks floated down the canals on rafts or via some other method. Scholars had previously assumed ancient builders floated blocks down a canal to the Tonle Sap Lake and then upstream on the Siem Reap River, a 90-kilometer-long route.