Visualising Angkor

Visualising Angkor

The Visualising Angkor Project explores the historical recreation of the medieval Cambodian metropolis of Angkor through virtual, 3D technologies.

Project Members

Tom Chandler
Brent McKee
Chandara Ung
Elliott Wilson
Mike Yeates


Research, Simulations, Virtual Heritage, Virtual Reality

This project is based upon the evidence-based creation of many individual 3D models, from bronze trees to temples to walking figures. The 3D visualisations and 3D interactive scenes created by the Visualising Angkor Project draw upon a wide range of archaeological and historical data, from bas reliefs, architectural and textile studies to botanical references gleaned from epigraphy and the extensive archaeological mapping of Greater Angkor. Taken together, these many 3D models make up a virtual library that can be patterned to visualise hypothetical reconstructions drawn 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, Angkor Wat is a world famous heritage site and the largest religious monument on earth.

In 2013, archaeological surveys confirmed a grid pattern of roads and household ponds beneath the forests within the temple confines. We can deduce from the inscriptions at other Angkorian temples that Angkor Wat was likely serviced by a large, locally based workforce of around 25,000 people and a support population of 125,000 people.

This project explores visualisation scenarios about how the Angkor Wat complex might have appeared and operated almost a millennium ago.

To do this, we have crafted a comprehensive virtual reconstruction of the complex using an evidence-based library of 3D models, sounds, textures and environmental effects. This immersive virtual world is overlaid with a crowd simulation that tracks thousands of walking residents, workers and visitors as they enter, leave and circulate the complex.

Eventually, our simulation timeframe might accommodate weeks, months or years, but the fundamental measure we need to visualise first is 24 hours: a day in the medieval life of Angkor Wat.

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, they 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 the Angkor Archaeological Park. As well as meetings to overview the development of the historical simulation of Angkor Wat with archaeologists from the Greater Angkor Project and the EFEO, research activities included the photographic documentation of temple architecture, cultural landscapes and archaeological sites around Siem Reap province.

angkor visualisation