According to new study, the gigantic sandstone blocks used to build the 12th-century temple of Angkor Wat were transported to the site via a network of hundreds of canals.

The discoveries provide insight on how the temple’s 5 million to 10 million bricks, some weighing up to 3,300 pounds, made their way from quarries at the base of a nearby mountain to the temple.

“We discovered many quarries of sandstone blocks used for the Angkor temples, as well as the sandstone blocks’ transportation route,” study co-author Estuo Uchida of Japan’s Waseda University noted in an email.

In the 12th century, King Suryavarman II of the Khmer Empire began construction on a 500-acre temple in Angkor, Cambodia’s capital city. The complex was built to honor the Hindu god Vishnu, but 14th-century leaders converted the site into a Buddhist temple.

Archaeologists knew the stones came from quarries at the base of a neighbouring mountain, but they were unsure how the sandstone bricks needed to construct Angkor Wat arrived at the site.

People previously believed the stones were brought to Tonle Sap Lake via canal and then rowed against the current through another river to the temples, according to Uchida.

Uchida’s crew inspected the area and discovered 50 quarries along an embankment at the base of Mt. Kulen to see if this was the fact. They also combed through satellite photographs of the area and discovered a network of hundreds of canals and roadways connecting the quarries to the temple site.

The distance between the quarries and the site along the route Uchida’s team found was only 22 miles, compared with the 54 miles the river route would have taken.

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