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Digital Subscriptions > History Revealed > April 2019 > Ask the Experts

Ask the Experts

WHEN WAS ANGKOR WAT DISCOVERED?

No one really discovered Angkor Wat as the temple complex was never ‘lost’. The religious monument/city, covering around 400 acres, was built over three decades in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II of the Khmer Empire. He intended it to be his funerary temple and the new capital, dedicating it to the Hindu deity Vishnu.

Angkor Wat became the pride of the empire, with its five central towers representing the peaks of Mount Meru, dwelling place of the gods. And even when it was sacked, turned into a Buddhist centre of worship and largely abandoned over the centuries, the complex remained populated.

ALAMY X1, GETTY IMAGES X1

Yet Henri Mouhot is still mistakenly put forward as the ‘discoverer’ of Angkor Wat. During an expedition from 1859-60, the French naturalist made a visit to the temple, which he described as a “rival to that of Solomon and erected by some ancient Michelangelo”. He was far from the first European to see Angkor Wat – that is thought to have been a Portuguese friar in 1586 – but his writings, published posthumously, brought it unprecedented attention.

COMPLEX EMOTIONS Henri Mouhot Angkor Wat "grander than anything left by Greece or Rome"

DID YOU KNOW?

WAT A FIND

Henri Mouhot contracted malaria and died while exploring the jungles of Laos in 1861. The detailed observations and drawings he had made of Angkor!Wat were saved and published a couple of years later, making the temple known in Europe.

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About History Revealed

William Shakespeare had humble beginnings – how did he transform into England’s greatest playwright? We explore how the ‘upstart crow’ became so widely celebrated. Plus: The mysterious assassins of the medieval Muslim world are explored, we dig into the diaries of Samuel Pepys and take a look at the life of Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians.