While Angkor Wat’s well-preserved stone architecture has been the subject of extensive scholarship, the wooden settlement that once lay within the temple’s enclosure walls was revealed only recently. In 2013, LiDAR archaeological surveys confirmed a grid pattern of roads and household ponds, suggesting a regular layout of dispersed and substantial wooden dwellings. Current archaeological estimates suggest that at its peak, the Angkor Wat complex was likely serviced by a workforce of 25,000, including around 4,500 residing within the temple enclosure.
Since 2015, researchers at Monash University have carefully assembled an immersive virtual model of Angkor Wat that explores scenarios about how the complex might have operated in the 12th century. While the digital reconstruction of architecture and cultural landscapes makes up the three-dimensional foundation of this virtual world, the real focus of the research is the dynamic animation of moving crowds of people. In this ‘immersive analytic’ study of the complex, the paths of thousands of walking ‘agents’ are tracked as they enter, exit and circulate within the temple enclosure. In contrast to archaeological studies that plot change over decades or centuries, this simulation focuses on just 24 hours; a day in the life of medieval Angkor Wat.