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Cambodia's lost city discovered near Angkor Wat

Cambodia's lost city of Mahendraparvata lay hidden beneath a canopy of dense vegetation. Airborne lasers produced a detailed map of a vast cityscape, including highways and previously undiscovered temples near Cambodia's prized Angkor Wat temples.

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Tourists wait to see a sunrise at the famed Angkor Wat temple in Siem Reap province, Cambodia, in 2008. Scientists announced yesterday that airborne lasers pierced the thick rainforest vegetation to reveal Cambodia's lost city, buried centuries ago by Cambodia's thick jungles.

Heng Sinith / AP / File

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Cambodia's lost city has been found. Airborne laser technology uncovered a network of roadways and canals, illustrating a bustling ancient city linking Cambodia's famed Angkor Wat temple complex.

The discovery was announced late Monday in a peer-reviewed paper released early by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The laser scanning revealed a previously undocumented formally planned urban landscape integrating the 1,200-year-old temples.

The Angkor temple complex, Cambodia's top tourist destination and one of Asia's most famous landmarks, was constructed in the 12th century during the mighty Khmer empire. Angkor Wat is a point of deep pride for Cambodians, appearing on the national flag, and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Archaeologists had long suspected that the city of Mahendraparvata lay hidden beneath a canopy of dense vegetation atop Phnom Kulen mountain in Siem Reap province. But the airborne lasers produced the first detailed map of a vast cityscape, including highways and previously undiscovered temples.

"No one had ever mapped the city in any kind of detail before, and so it was a real revelation to see the city revealed in such clarity," University of Sydney archaeologist Damian Evans, the study's lead author, said by phone from Cambodia. "It's really remarkable to see these traces of human activity still inscribed into the forest floor many, many centuries after the city ceased to function and was overgrown."

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