The Collapse of Khmer at Angkor Wat

By Andrew Bauersfeld and Madeline Friedland

Thesis Statement

The city of Khmer at Angkor Watt collapsed due to three main factors; the weather, the Economic failure, and war/raiding.
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The Angkor Watt Society

The city of Angkor Watt is located deep in what was the Khmer Empire, which is called Cambodia. Cambodia can be found next to Vietnam and Thailand, also boarding the Gulf of Thailand. Angkor Watt is near the center of Cambodia, very close to Tonle Sap Lake. The Khmer Empire was very large, stretching about 365 square miles across southeast Asia. The city was built on top of what was once a dense rainforest, and almost every year there are monsoons in the summer. The people of Angkor Watt built a complex series of irrigation systems with many canals and dikes to store and move water from these monsoons across the city and into places in need of it. One of the main features of the Angkor Civilization is the temple in the center of the city. The temple is built on top of a square piece of land with a cleared space for the temple in the center. Surrounding this piece of land is a large rectangular shaped moat going all the way around the land (pictured below). Monks often went here to practice religion and it is one of the largest religious buildings in the world today. The Angkor Watt Society thrived in the Khmer Empire from the 9th Century BC until it collapsed abruptly in the 15th century BC, due to three specific reasons.
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Weather/Enviromental issues

One of the main reasons leading up to the collapse of The Khmer at Angkor Wat civilization was the unreliable Weather. They experienced 3 severe droughts with intense monsoon rains in between. The Droughts made it nearly impossible to have a reliable source of water which is needed in a successful society. Also many civilizations like this one needed to farm and grow crops in order to have a stable food source for the people. The Monsoons and Droughts greatly impacted the civilization by stunting the growth of their crops which were needed for their survival. The droughts and monsoons also made irrigation systems and canals fail. This happened due to the overflow in Monsoons and lack of water during droughts. These were needed to bring water to farms and households and to keep the city's clean. Without irrigation and Canals, a major lifeline for the civilization was cut off, leading to the collapse of Khmer at Angkor Wat.

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Economic Failure

In Angkor Watt, one of the main things they relied on was growing crops, food, and things such as grains on some of their fertile soil and using the water they acquire from the monsoons every summer. They would often use these things to trade with people outside of Angkor and even amongst themselves. During the middle to late 14th century BC there was a large drought throughout Angkor Watt and the rest of Cambodia, and at the same time Angkor was at war with the neighboring country, Ayutthaya. This left many people distracted about what was going on in the actual city, and the irrigation system maintenance fell to an all time low. With very little water left in the city and the canals almost falling apart, it was essentially impossible to grow any crops. This left many people with not a lot of food to eat and it also tore Angkor Watt's economy to shreds. All of the neighboring countries and cities of Angkor saw them as a poor place in economic despair, so they had no reason to trade with them, or have anything to do with them at all. It did not take long for the city to crumble from this point.
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War and Raids from neighboring countries also lead to the collapse of the Khmer at Angkor Wat Civilization. Near the time of the collapse, Ayuddhaya and khmer were in a brutal war, which caused a major disruption to crops. In these vast areas where the battles were fought, much of the fertile land was destroyed. Due to the devastation produced by fighting, it became harder to find undestroyed lands that could be farmed upon. War also weakened their defenses against other civilizations that had been waiting to raid and conquer territory. While many of the men left there jobs and civilizations behind to fight, they left their homes and country defenseless from outside forces. The siamese took advantage of the war and raided the main cities and temples completely destroying much of Khmer at Angkor Wat, leaving the main temples untouched. This is the event that is largely believed to be the main cause of the Collapse of Khmer at Angkor Wat. And after the soldiers returned from fighting in Ayuddhaya, it was too late to save their already crumbling nation. Overall, war and raids can be credited as one of the main causes for the collapse of Khmer at Angkor Wat.
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Works Citied

Works Cited

Chandler, David P. A History of Cambodia. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2008. Print.

Choi, Charles. "Drought Led to Demise of Ancient City of Angkor." LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 02 Jan. 2012. Web. 27 Feb. 2014. <>.

"CULTUREFOCUS: Cambodia Photos. Pictures of Angkor Wat." CULTUREFOCUS: Cambodia Photos. Pictures of Angkor Wat. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2014. <>.

Hirst, Kris K. "The Collapse of Angkor." Archaeology. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2014. <>.

Martineau, Kim. "Did Climate Influence Angkor's Collapse?" Columbia University. Columbia University, 29 Mar. 2010. Web. 27 Feb. 2014. <>.

Shapiro, Margaret. "Science News: What Happened at Angkor Wat." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 13 Apr. 2010. Web. 03 Mar. 2014.


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