Event: Friday Seminar: "Khok Thlok, Cosmology, and Angkor as a Hydraulic City"

Date & Time

February 23, 2018 - 3:00pm to 5:00pm

Contact Information

Matthew Swanson


Fowler A222

Event Type

Friday Seminar

Event Details

Speaker: Dr. Miriam Stark, Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Hawai'i

The Mekong Basin that Angkorian Khmers inhabited was a watery world. Annual monsoon rains dictated their farming and shaped their mobility, and short-term droughts that followed each year’s rainy season drove Khmers to dig household ponds and temple reservoirs. Chinese, Khmer and Cham histories include a Khmer origin story in which a foreign ruler conquers and marries a local serpent princess, and the bride’s father drains the local waters to create farmland for his daughter’s new dynasty. Environmental studies suggest that increasingly severe floods challenged Angkor’s urban engineers, and the decades-long droughts that followed pushed farmers on the Angkor Plain to their limits. Angkorian life revolved around water, and so did the life of its capital, but not simply in response to climate. Water has been intrinsic to Angkorian cosmology since the beginning of Khmer recorded history: simultaneously salubrious, secular and sacred. Water frames my presentation on Angkorian archaeology, which begins with the Khok Thlok origin story, examines the cosmology of water in Angkorian Cambodia, and problematizes Angkor, which BP Groslier described as his “hydraulic city”: from the household level to the urban scale. Archaeological and environmental research offer rich, and occasionally, competing perspectives on how water shaped 9th-15th century Khmers.