Digital Angkor offers clues to daily life at the ancient site

Digital Angkor offers clues to daily life at the ancient site

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090108_8.jpg

Photo by: Tom Chandler

A virtual visualisation of Angkor.

COMPUTER animation geeks are taking on Angkor, and last month Tom Chandler, a PhD student at Monash University in Australia, unveiled newly  developed animation that imagines ancient Angkor as a living, breathing virtual world.

"In comparison to the research you'd find for virtual Greece, or Rome, or Egypt, what's out there for Angkor is still pretty thin," Chandler told archaeologists at Ecole Francaise d'Extreme-Orient. 

So Chandler has taken research and maps from top archaeologists and further developed Angkor into a three-dimensional landscape with people, temples and vegetation looking like they may have in ancient times.  Chandler studied fine arts and archaeology, which have helped him with this project.  "I work at the intersection of sculpture and cinema," he said.  Because Chandler can continually improve the virtual world by changing the information given to the computer, including the colours of the temples, input from archaeologists is essential to representing as accurate a virtual world as possible.    

"There's scant archaeological evidence of coloured paints around the temples.  Everyone agrees the temples were coloured, but, like the dinosaurs, we don't know what colours. I'm not trying to create something definitive, but the colours can be morphed and tested until we reach a consensus on what colours the temples may have been."

Chandler's virtual Angkor can be used as an education tool, or it can be studied by archaeologists to consider the possibilities of this ancient world and pose new questions.

One of the most difficult aspects of creating a virtual Angkor is inputting rice fields into the vast landscape.  "We can't get the rice fields to work because it involves millions and millions of blades of grass," said Chandler.  "It just keeps crashing the computer."  

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