Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

How Lasers Helped Find a Lost City in Cambodia’s Jungle (Video)

It’s always cool when something new helps unearth something incredibly old and previously unknown. That’s exactly what a few Australian researchers have done in the jungles of Cambodia.

Damien Evans (pictured), an archaeologist with the University of Sydney, is a bit of an Indiana Jones with a GPS receiver and a laser-carrying helicopter. He and his team led correspondents with Australia’s The Age on an expedition to explore a forgotten city complex called Mahendraparvata not far from the popular tourist attraction Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat dates to about the year 1125 and is to this day considered the world’s largest religious monument.

They found it using a technology called lidar, which isn’t, strictly speaking, new: It has been around since the 1960s. But its application to the field of archeology has been yielding some impressive results recently, especially when it comes to finding lost cities in jungles. Last year it was used to locate another lost city in the jungles of Honduras.

Lidar scans taken from a helicopter that had flown over the site were combined with GPS coordinates, giving archeologists the precise location of where the ruins are, essentially hiding under the growth of jungle.

The Age also sent a cameraman who shot the 10-minute video below.

(Image is a screen grab from an early portion of the video.)

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik