The fluvial cultural landscape of Angkor: an integrated study

Veronica Walker Vadillo (
Archaeology, University of Oxford
June, 2017
Veronica has a BA in History from the Univeristy of Alcala (Spain), and an MA in Maritime Archaeology from University College London's Institute of Archaeology (UK). For her MA dissertation she studied boat representations in Angkorian temples, a subject that she continued into her doctoral thesis at the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology (UK).


The development of the medieval city of Angkor (802-1431 CE) in the floodplains of the Tonle Sap Lake has lead researchers to believe that Angkor made use of its extensive river network; however, little attention has been given to Angkor’s relationship with its watery environment. Previous studies have presented a fragmentary view of the subject by analysing different components in a compartmentalized way, placing the focus on nautical technology or neglecting discussions on water transport in academic works on land transport. This work aims to provide a more comprehensive study on Angkor’s specific cognitive and functional traits that could be construed as a distinctive form of fluvial cultural landscape. This is done by examining the environment, nautical technology, and the cultural biography of boats within the theoretical framework of the maritime cultural landscape and using a cross-disciplinary approach that integrates data from archaeology, iconography, history, ethnography and environmental studies. A new topological map of Angkor’s landscape of communications and transport is presented, as well new insights on the use of boats as liminal agents for economic and political activities.