The Khmer did not live by rice alone: Archaeobotanical investigations at Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm

Author ORCID Identifier

Piphal Heng:https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5020-0092

Publication Title

Archaeological Research in Asia



Document Type



The Angkorian Empire was at its peak from the 10th to 13th centuries CE. It wielded great influence across mainland Southeast Asia and is now one of the most archaeologically visible polities due to its expansive religious building works. This paper presents archaeobotanical evidence from two of the most renowned Angkorian temples largely associated with kings and elites, Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm. But it focuses on the people that dwelt within the temple enclosures, some of whom were involved in the daily functions of the temple. Archaeological work indicates that temple enclosures were areas of habitation within the Angkorian urban core and the temples and their enclosures were ritual, political, social, and economic landscapes. This paper provides the first attempt to reconstruct some aspects of the lives of the non-elites living within the temple enclosures by examining the archaeobotanical evidence, both macroremains and phytoliths, from residential contexts and data derived from inscriptions and Zhou Daguan's historical account dating to the 13th century CE. Research indicates that plants found within the temple enclosure of Ta Prohm and Angkor Wat were grown for ritual or medicinal use, and also formed important components of the diet and household economy.

Publication Date





Cotton, Economic crops, Household gardens, Inscriptions, Non-elites, Rice


Center for Southeast Asian Studies; Department of Anthropology