June 9, 2004 3:29 PM   Subscribe

Water woes, not wars, ended Angkor's empire, according to the Greater Angkor Project. Ecological failure and infrastructure breakdown brought down Cambodia's great city and Hindu civilization.
posted by homunculus (7 comments total)
End of Civilization stories seem to carry a dark dystopian message of what lies ahead if we do not learn from past mistakes. It only takes one generation to end a civilization forever. If that generation happens to be the "lazy generation" and not the "greatest generation" when some serious crisis hits then that could be the end. The article doesn't mention why if they were so skilled at digging the canals they could not simply repair the infrastructure when it started to fail. Perhaps the skilled labor was lost to imported manual labor slaves and the knowledge was lost and the elite no longer had the skill or desire to fix it.
posted by stbalbach at 7:55 PM on June 9, 2004

stbalbach - it can be quite a conceptual stretch, even for such a "great" generation, to understand the nature of the threat.
posted by troutfishing at 8:30 PM on June 9, 2004

I read an article about a book which says the same thing about the Muslim empire which had its HQ in Baghdad- that ecological mismanagement of resources is what resulted in its fall, not other previously thought reasons. Does anyone know which book I'm talking about?
posted by cell divide at 8:45 PM on June 9, 2004

More information on Cambodia.
posted by the cuban at 3:01 AM on June 10, 2004

Nice links, thanks. Other 'overtaken by ecological breakdown' theories I've come across include the Maya in the Yucatan, and the Anasazi in what is now the southwestern US.

I think we're quite used to having a predictive model of environmental change based on a systems model of ecology/environment, and we forget that there are many other models out there which would not work in this context - e.g. canal silting is caused by the failure of purity rituals, by an eclipse/supernova, etc. I'm not sure we should feel so superior though; these days the complexities of global climate change are so complex it would be interesting to look back on 2004 from a couple hundred years' perspective, to see to what extent our theories and models now are correct. I suspect that they might look the same as 19C medicine to us now.
posted by carter at 7:20 AM on June 10, 2004

hmmmm..:D mebbe could've used a few macs!
posted by kliuless at 9:43 PM on June 17, 2004

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