Visualising Angkor

Visualising Angkor

The Visualising Angkor Project explores the historical recreation of the medieval Cambodian metropolis of Angkor through virtual technologies.

Project Members

Tom Chandler
Brent McKee
Chandara Ung
Elliott Wilson
Mike Yeates


Research, Simulations, Virtual Heritage, Virtual Reality

This project explores the creation of a comprehensive virtual world through the evidence-based creation of 3D models of medieval Angkor. The 3D visualisations and 3D interactive scenes draw upon data from a wide array of sources, from archaeological and art historical surveys through to historical accounts, photographic archives, textile studies and botanical references gleaned from epigraphy. Taken together, these 3D models make up a library that can be patterned to visualise hypothetical reconstructions of the past that augment and illuminate information from historical texts and archaeological surveys.

Such visualisations establish an iterative dialogue between 3D animators, archaeologists, and historians to test how assumptions about Angkor can be made more precise.

Simulating a day in the medieval life of Angkor Wat.

Constructed in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II (1113 – 1150), the temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia is a world famous heritage site and the largest religious monument on earth.

While the temple’s well-preserved stone architecture has been the subject of extensive scholarship, the wooden settlement that once lay within the temple’s enclosure walls was revealed only recently. In 2013, LiDAR archaeological surveys confirmed a grid pattern of roads and household ponds, suggesting a regular layout of dispersed and substantial wooden dwellings. Current archaeological estimates suggest that at its peak, the Angkor Wat complex was likely serviced by a workforce of 25,000 and supported by a population of up to 125,000 people. Only a small proportion of this number – about 4,500 residents – would have lived within the temple enclosure; the rest would have journeyed to the temple from the densely populated settlements beyond the moat.

Since 2014, a small team at sensiLab have been researching and crafting a dynamic simulation that draws upon recent archaeological discoveries to visualise how the Angkor Wat complex might have operated almost a millennium ago. The aims of the research are twofold. The first is to craft a comprehensive virtual reconstruction of Angkor Wat as the centerpiece of the Cambodian metropolis, Angkor in the 12th century. The second aim is an immersive analytic study of the complex, where the paths of thousands of animated ‘agents’ are tracked as they enter, exit and circulate within the temple enclosure.

In contrast to archaeological studies that plot change over decades or centuries, this simulation focuses on just 24 hours; a day in the life of medieval Angkor Wat.

In March 2017, this simulation opened as a digital exhibition at Monash’s Hargrave-Andrew Library.

Research Field Trip, December 2015

In early December 2015, Visualising Angkor Project researchers Tom Chandler, Brent McKee, Elliott Wilson and Mike Yeates travelled to Cambodia for a six-day field trip.

Starting in Phnom Penh, the team examined the collections of the National Museum of Cambodia and discussed options for a new interactive exhibit with the Museum’s Director. The next four days were spent in Siem Reap where the team met with archaeologists from the Greater Angkor Project and the EFEO to overview the development of the simulation of Angkor Wat, and in the Angkor Archaeological Park, where research activities included the photographic documentation of temple architecture, cultural landscapes and archaeological sites.

angkor visualisation