Archaeologist mourns Damian Evans, discoverer of medieval cities near Angkor Wat | archeology

World-leading Australian-Canadian archaeologist Dr Damien Evans, who played a crucial role in the discovery of previously undocumented medieval cities near Angkor Wat, has died of brain lymphoma.

Close friends confirmed that Evans died on September 12 in Paris, where he was working in the city French School of the Far East.

Since the 1990s, he has worked extensively in Cambodia, where his cutting-edge research using space-based laser technology to uncover archaeological landscapes in Southeast Asia has transformed the field.

Most notably, the team’s discovery of multiple medieval cities dating between 900 and 1,400 years ago not far from the ancient temple city of Angkor Wat turned basic assumptions about Southeast Asian history upside down.

Tributes poured in for Evans from his international teammates on Wednesday evening.

Professor Roland Fletcher of the University of Melbourne supervised Evans on his honors thesis, producing the first comprehensive map of the entire greater Angkor region.

This led to the Greater Angkor Project, led by Fletcher and Evans, and a major collaboration with French archaeologist Christophe Pottier to produce a new comprehensive map of the region.

“He has always been very efficient and very effective,” he said. “Very good at working with people and organizing.”

Alison Carter, an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Oregon, met Damien in 2008 when she was in Cambodia conducting research for her dissertation.

“He immediately invited me to join him on a reconnaissance project,” she posted on social media. “He barely knew me, but he was incredibly generous with his time and knowledge.

“Damien was also a great writer and editor. I could always count on him to improve a draft of a manuscript. Many times I thought I had made a great point in my work, only to come back and see that Damian had said it first, and better.”

“Damien was grumpy at times, but mostly he was warm, generous and funny. We lost him too soon.”

From 2007 to 2015, Evans was the founding director of the University of Sydney’s Siem Reap-Angkor Overseas Research Centre.

His doctoral research at the university produced a comprehensive map of Angkor in Cambodia based on aerial photographs, surveying and remote sensing technology.

After its completion, Evans was one of the first researchers to use large-scale airborne laser scanning (LIDAR) technology to detect and analyze the great urban and agricultural networks of Angkor.

His findings transformed scientists’ understanding of landscapes from the past to the present day.

In 2014, Evans received a seed grant from the European Research Council (ERC) for the Cambodian Archaeological LiDAR Initiative, and moved his research to France.

The following year, his team conducted the most comprehensive aerial study ever undertaken by archaeologists – using a helicopter-mounted laser radar to scan an area of ​​jungle in Cambodia similar in size to Greater London.

Discover a network of ancient Cambodian cities, dating back to prehistoric times and encompassing the Angkor Empire from the 9th to the 15th centuries AD.

The European Research Council described the research as “the most ambitious archaeological lidar program ever achieved in Asia.”

Fletcher said Evans’ energy and commitment to working with local Cambodian authorities, including Apsara, which administers Angkor, allowed the project to be carried through to completion.

“(Using lidar) completely changed our understanding of central Angkor,” he said. “It was all under the trees, buried in the jungle, but we were able to see it for the first time exposed.”

“I remember my colleagues sitting in our research facility for long hours into the night watching these amazing images… The volume of information was so overwhelming that it could only be processed slowly, like watching magic unfold.

“It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.”

Andy Brewer, an independent researcher at Hanuman Travel and Hanuman Films, said Evans’ name was synonymous with “pioneering discoveries in understanding more about the extent of the Khmer Empire.”

Pippad Krajajun, a lecturer at Thammasat University, thanked Evans for encouraging archaeologists in Southeast Asia to explore the world of lidar technology to evaluate archaeological sites.

“My memories of meeting him in Siem Reap nine years ago are still vivid,” he wrote on social media.

“Thank you very much for your wonderful work and for inspiring archaeologists in Southeast Asia.”

Before his death, Evans joined the French School of the Far East to oversee a multimillion-dollar project to uncover and map early cities using airborne laser scanning, and was conducting archaeological tours in Laos and Cambodia with Far Horizons.

He has received thousands of citations and has been featured in numerous international documentaries and news articles, including National Geographic Channel and History Channel documentaries about Angkor.

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