Advanced Radar Technology Used To Save Iconic Angkor Wat Temple

Posted: Mar 4 2017, 5:51am CST | by , Updated: Mar 4 2017, 6:06am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
Advanced Radar Technology Used to Save Iconic Angkor Wat Temple
Temple collapsing in Angkor due to decay. Credit: F.Chen from the Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth, Chinese Academy of Sciences

Using a new type of satellite radar system, researchers assessed the type and extent of damage done to the famous Campodian monument

In a race against time and the elements, researchers from China and Cambodia have teamed up to save the iconic temple of Angkor Wat. They have used for the first time a new type of satellite radar system to determine the extent of the damage done to the monument as it was possibly affected by the increased extraction of underground water in the recent years.

Angkor Wat, the famous Cambodian temple, was built between the 9th and 15th centuries during the Khmer Empire and it is considered by archeologists to be the largest religious monument in the world. The temple has been declared a World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. However, the cracks and significant degradation on Angkor’s elaborate architecture have caused concerns over the potential collapse of the building in coming decades. Understanding what might be ruining its structure could help experts find better methods for protecting and restoring the ancient building.

In the latest effort, an advanced radar technique known as Interferometric synthetic aperture radar or InSAR allowed the detailed investigation of the temple complex and helped researchers identify the type and the extent of damage that may be hidden beneath the layers of the structure.

Over a two-year study period from 2011 to 2013, researchers have found that the ground around the Angkor monuments shifted less than 3 millimeters, which may suggest that the decay of the building may not sped up by the water extraction from the ground in the nearby area. Instead, the steady decline of the structure is caused by the combination of erosion, temperature fluctuations and seasonal changes to the water table.

Conservation and preservation of historical monuments is an integral part of the cultural stability of a region. Conventional methods can only reveal the damage already done to the structure. However, new radar technology could detect minuscule shifts that will likely lead to the damage in the future.

Researchers believe the focus should be more on avoiding the effects of climate change rather than controlling the water extraction around the monument.

“Our results show that pumping groundwater for residential and touristic establishments did not threaten the sustainability of monuments during 2011 to 2013; however, seasonal variations of the groundwater table and the thermodynamics of stone materials are factors that could trigger and/or aggravate the deterioration of monuments.” Authors wrote in the study.

“These factors amplify known impacts of chemical weathering and biological alteration of temple materials. The InSAR solution reported in this study could have implications for monitoring and sustainable conservation of monuments in World Heritage sites elsewhere.”

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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