‘Long-lost city of Gods’ discovered in dense forest by lasers after 1,000 years

An ancient city that experts spent years searching for was uncovered in a jungle in north-west Cambodia.

Mahendraparvata, which means Mountain of Indra (King of Gods), was a thriving metropolis well over 1,000 years ago and is thought to have been the first capital city of the Khmer Empire.

Efforts to locate the remains of this mysterious site had been unsuccessful for decades, with scientists even disagreeing on where they should be looking for it.

READ MORE: 'Domesticated dinosaur' carving at temple reclaimed by jungle 'proves time travel'

This was until a ground-breaking expedition that concluded in 2019 revealed a wealth of information on the lost city – which pre-dates the world-renowned Angkor Wat complex by over 300 years.

Analysis of the discovery in Phnom Kulen National Park found that Mahendraparvata was established in 802 AD, when Khmer prince Jayavarman II was consecrated. This was the founding of the ancient Khmer Empire.

A key feature of the discovery was the use of state-of-the-art Lidar (light detection and ranging) laser-scanning techniques to pinpoint the location of the city, which sits 40km north of the largest religious site in the world, Angkor Wat.

Discussing the amazing find that included over two dozen previously unrecorded temples, archaeologist Jean-Baptiste Chevance, of the Archaeology and Development Foundation in the UK, wrote in a paper: "The mountainous region of Phnom Kulen has, to date, received strikingly little attention.

"It is almost entirely missing from archaeological maps, except as a scatter of points denoting the remains of some brick temples."

He added: "The Ancient Khmer modified the landscape, shaping features on a very large scale – ponds, reservoirs, canals, roads, temples, rice fields and more.

"However, the dense forest often covering the areas of interest is a main constraint to investigating them."

The laser technology used meant the team were able to look past hundreds of years of vegetation that now covers the remains of the city.

They could then see a huge urban network that spanned 50sqkm across the jungle.

"Numerous other elements of the anthropogenic landscape connect to this broader network, suggesting the elaboration of an overall urban plan," the team explained.

"Dams, reservoir walls and the enclosure walls of temples, neighbourhoods and even the royal palace abut or coincide with the embanked linear features."

But despite its size, the city was not inhabited for very long, with people migrating to terrains that were easier to live in.

Damian Evans, of the French School of the Far East, told the New Scientist: "The city may not have lasted for centuries, or perhaps even decades.

"But the cultural and religious significance of the place has lasted right up until the present day."

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