Today there’s news of the latest addition to the Google heritage horizon: the fascinating and evocative Khmer Empire temple, Angkor Wat, in what’s now Cambodia. It’s more than just a computer gizmo—it’s truly an aid to learning. Did I say an aid? I meant an indispensable aid—one that paupers like me can use to go, virtually, right there, and be one among the other tourists that wander in and out of the images. [Calling them ‘images’ really doesn’t do justice to the technology, even if what you experience is, after all, just a gabillion images stitched together, magically, on the Google campus.] [You can tell I’m impressed. Can’t you?]
|A click of your mouse, and you’re on your way to the largest religious edifice on the planet. First a Hindu, and later a Buddhist temple, Angkor Wat.|
This is the same Angkor Wat that recently made headlines for contributing some revelations of an intensive LIDAR aerial survey, published a few months ago in PNAS.
Evans, D.H., Roland J. Fletcher, C. Pottier, J.-B. Chevance, D. Soutif, B.S. Tan, S. Im, D. Ea, T. Tin, S. Kim, C. Cromarty, S. De Greef, K. Hanus, P. Bâty, R. Kuszinger, I. Shimoda, and G. Boornazian.
2013 “Uncovering archaeological landscapes at Angkor using lidar.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Published online before print July 11, 2013. [Permalink—http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1306539110]
If you’ve just read the caption above you’ll know that Lidar picks up relief changes on the order of 0.5 m, while its horizontal accuracy is about 1 m. Forget the theodolite, Barney! I’ll take one of these site maps, any day!
The montage below better illustrates the incredible power of Lidar. Compare the image at top with the two below it. The upper, Lidar, image is bursting with features on the ground that have yet to be mapped or investigated.
Finally, a third site, Koh Ker. What we knew before, above, and what we know now, below.
* Go ahead. Open Google Earth. Make sure that you’ve checked the Places layer under Primary Database. Type ‘Tulum, Mexico,’ in the Search window, and click ‘Search.’ That’ll get you to the present-day town of Tulum, in Quintana Roo, on the Yucatan Peninsula. Scroll over to the coast and do a little coastal survey. When you see the cartoon evergreen tree that denotes the archaeological ruins, light up the navigation aids to the right of your monitor, then click, hold, and drag the little brown person on the green pad toward the tree. As soon as you start to move it toward the coast you’ll see purple lines appear, superimposed over the satellite image. Hover over one of the purple lines and let go of your mouse button. In an instant you’ll be dropped down in the midst of the Maya ruins of Tulum. Amazement will almost certainly follow. The same instructions will get you to Angkor Wat [except for the part where you type in Angkor Wat instead of Tulum]. More amazement!