Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Nerdish Delight: Holiday in Cambodia

When I was a little kid, I wanted to be an archaeologist when I grew up.  I don't want to be an archaeologist anymore but I do love exploring (although mostly just my own city).  So when I saw the news that a group of archaeologists in Cambodia discovered a 1200 year old city, I was really excited!  One of the news articles called the expedition Indiana Jones-style and while I do love Indiana Jones movies, I think it sounds more like the sort of thing I would read in a Michael Crichton book, like Congo.  (If you haven't read that book, and enjoy science-y murder mysteries, I highly recommend it)  They discovered the city using laser technology developed in the 1960s for measuring clouds.  Lasers!  Seriously, lasers alone nerdishly delight me.  But there's more.  After they detected the outline of the city using Lidar technology (which, using ultraviolet, visible, or near infrared light, pulses lasers to "see" through dense vegetation, in this case jungle), they trekked through the jungle (which was full of live land mines, by the way!).  I'm picturing lots of khaki and machetes.  They also had a guide, who had never been to the lost city either, a one-legged soldier.  Does this not sound like something that would be happening in a book or a movie?!  And then they found the city, and were attacked by cannibals who hadn't seen humans other than their own tribe before.  And then the ancient city was destroyed because of ancient booby traps, obviously.  Oh wait, no that last part with the cannibals and destruction would happen in a movie, but thankfully didn't happen in real life.  In real life, it was pretty anti-climactic.  They just discovered a city, called Mahendraparvata, that hasn't been seen by anyone who is alive now, or anyone who has been alive in the past 1000 years.  That's all.  It also reminds me of Timeline, also by Michael Crichton, which is another book that I highly recommend.  There's quantum physics and time travel in it!

The other really cool thing about this discovery is that the ginormous temple of Angkor Wat, which I've thought was super cool since I was a little kid with archaeologist dreams, is part of the newly rediscovered city of Mahendraparvata.  It's like they just keep on finding more pieces in a puzzle (and I love puzzles!).  First Angkor Wat and then Mahendraparvata.  I have to wonder what they'll find next.  I love urban decay (and I'm not talking about the makeup brand) and I love ruins.  Ruins are really just extreme urban decay, from times when the urban landscape was very different.  My absolute favorite examples are Macchu Picchu (another one I've loved since I was teeny tiny) and Nara Dreamland (a much newer example of urban decay).

Oh and one more thing it reminds me of is the children's movie The Road to El Dorado, where they discover El Dorado, the lost city made of gold.

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