A New Reconstruction of Angkor Wat

A simulated day in 12th century Angkor

This simulation aims to visualize Angkor Wat’s daily operation almost a millennium ago. Current archaeological estimates suggest that at its peak, the Angkor Wat complex was serviced by a workforce of over 20 000 that were in turn supported by a population of up to 125 000 people. Only a small proportion of this number—about 4500 residents—would have lived within the temple enclosure. The rest would have journeyed to the temple from the densely populated settlements beyond the moat.

Whereas historians typically model events over years or centuries, the time frame for this simulation—24 hours, or one day in the life of the complex—is more familiar. It features a large population of autonomous “agents,” that is our original animated characters, following pathfinding (A*) algorithms. We divided the agents into four broad categories; visiting elites and their retainers, residents, commuting workers, and suppliers. All agents are guided by broadly similar rules, though each agent category is given a different agenda in navigating the space of the city. 

Most of the elements in this simulated, hypothetical day in the 12th century can be changed by altering initial parameters and variables in the software before it starts up. For example, the agents in one test may be reordered into different groups and interrelated subgroups, each with different starting positions and destinations. Similarly, the patterning of wooden dwellings within the walls, their boundaries, and the number of shade trees around them can also alter, as can the shape, form, orientation, and frequency of the dwellings themselves.  The viewer/user can shift between these different archaeological interpretations and colour schemes, but, left on its own, the simulation will periodically cycle between them at random. The result is that no one particular interpretation is fixed. In this way, the visualization is not singular or specific but holds uncertainty in a kind of elastic and plural continuum.

Development Team –Tom Chandler, Mike Yeates, Brent McKee, Elliott Wilson & Chandara Ung

CollaborationsMartin Polkinghorne, Flinders University; Damian Evans, École française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO); Roland Fletcher Department of Archaeology, University of Sydney

Links & Publications:
Google Arts and Culture Exhibition: A New Reconstruction of Angkor Wat

“Simulating 24 hours at medieval Angkor Wat: A digital exhibition presented by Monash University library, March–June 2017, Hargrave-Andrew Library.” Chandler, Tom, Brent McKee, Elliot Wilson, Mike Yeates, Chandara Ung, Kingsley Stephens, Martin Polkinghorne, and Roland Fletcher. (2017). Video – (SensiLab Youtube)

“Simulating 24 hours at medieval Angkor Wat: A digital exhibition presented by Monash University library, April 2018 – August 2019, Caulfield Library.” Chandler, Tom, Brent McKee, Elliot Wilson, Mike Yeates, Chandara Ung, Martin Polkinghorne and Roland Fletcher. (2019) video –  2019 (Monash Youtube)

ABC News: Virtual Angkor Wat and other time travel trips coming to a VR headset near you soon

Chandler, T; McKee, B; Wilson, E; Yeates, M; Polkinghorne, M (2018)  A New Model of Angkor Wat: Simulated Reconstruction as a Methodology for Analysis and Public Engagement Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art 17 (2), 182-194

Chandler, T; Morgan, T; Kuhlen, T (2018) Exploring Immersive Analytics for Built Environments, Immersive Analytics, 331-357

Chandler, T.; Cordeil, M.; Czauderna, T.; Dwyer, T.; Glowacki, J.; Goncu, C.; Klapperstueck, M.; Klein, K.; Marriott, K.; Schreiber, F.; Wilson, E. (2015), “Immersive Analytics,” in Big Data Visual Analytics (BDVA), vol., no., pp.1-8, 22