Angkor Wat

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For the temple, see Prasat Angkor Wat

The highpoint of Angkorian architecture and the culmination of centuries of innovation in style, technique and design. Angkor Wat of course needs no introduction but even at smaller sites such as Prasat Banteay Samre, Prasat Phanom Rung, and (the only slightly smaller) Prasat Beng Mealea, all the characteristic elements are on display including; concentric enclosures, raised causeways, cruciform terraces, elaborate gopuras, enclosing galleries, 'libraries', the distinctive 'pineapple' sandstone towers, tiered pediments and lintels featuring finely carved narrative and heraldic designs plus, of course, the iconic devata images.

Aside from the sheer, unique, size of Angkor Wat, there are few architectural innovations per se, but what it does see is the successful coming together on a huge scale - the pinnacle - of centuries of trial, error and experimentation. In decorative terms, the elaborate, layered pediments, proliferation of iconic devata figures and covering of wall and column spaces with extensive tapestry reliefs was groundbreaking while the extraordinary gallery reliefs of Angkor Wat itself are incomparable in Khmer architecture. (The relief-lined outer galleries total nearly 1km and nearly 2,000 devata figures have been counted.)

Construction methods also seem to have reached a peak during this era with the huge site avoiding the catastrophic collapse of Baphuon and the hasty, poor building work of many subsequent Jayavarman VII sites. A surprising fact considering the sheer number of sites dating to this period although, as with the prolific latter builder, it's clear that many of these sites would have been initiated and completed before and after the reign of Suryavarman II himself.

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