Angkor is applied to a region of Cambodia known as the Khmer empire that ruled from approximately the 9th century to the 15th century A.D. More precisely, the Angkorian period is known  from 802 A.D., when the  Jayavarman II declared himself the "universal monarch" and "god-king" of Cambodia.

The main complex at Angkor Wat  

Angkor is located to the north of the Great Lake (Tonle Sap) and south of the Kulen Hills, near modern day Siem Reap (1324'N, 10351'E), and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temples of the Angkor area number over one thousand, ranging in scale from nondescript piles of brick rubble scattered through rice fields to the magnificent Angkor Wat, said to be the world's largest single religious monument. Many of the temples at Angkor have been restored, and together they comprise the most significant site of Khmer architecture. Visitor numbers approach two million annually.

In 2007 an international team of researchers using satellite photographs and other modern techniques concluded that Angkor had been the largest preindustrial city in the world with an urban sprawl of 400 square miles.


Historical Overview

Origin of Angkor as the Seat of the Khmer Empire

The Angkorian period may be said to have begun shortly after 800 A.D., when the Khmer King Jayavarman II announced the independence of Kambujadesa (Cambodia) from Java. Through a program of military campaigns, alliances, marriages and land grants, he achieved a unification of the country bordered by China (to the north), Champa (now Central Vietnam, to the east), the ocean (to the south) and a place identified by a stone inscription as "the land of cardamoms and mangoes" (to the west). In 802 Jayavarman articulated his new status by declaring himself "universal monarch" (chakravartin), and, in a move that was to be imitated by his successors and that linked him to the cult of Siva, taking on the epithet of "god-king" (devaraja). 

For over 300 years, the Khmer empire produced some of the world's most magnificent architectural masterpieces in the area known as Angkor. Most are concentrated in an area approximately 15 miles east to west and 5 miles north to south, although the Angkor Archaeological Park which administers the area includes sites as far away as Kbal Spean, about 30 miles to the north. Some 72 major temples or other buildings dot the area. The medieval settlement around the temple complex was approximately 3,000 sq km (1,150 sq miles).


Suryvarman II and the Construction of Angkor Wat

The principal temple of the Angkorian region, Angkor Wat, was built between 1113 and 1150 by King Suryavarman II. Suryavarman ascended to the throne after prevailing in a battle with a rival prince. An inscription says that in the course of combat, Suryavarman lept onto his rival's war elephant and killed him, just as the mythical bird-man Garuda slays a serpent.


Jayavarman VII, the Greatest of the Angkorian Kings

Portrait of Jayavarman VII on display at Musee Guimet, Paris.

Image of Jayavarman VII on display at Museum in Paris.


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