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IBS Speaker Series: Sarah Klassen

October 16, 2023 @ 12:00 pm 1:00 pm

Join in person or via Zoomemail for the password.
*Light lunch served at 11:45, please RSVP.

Title: Mapping Cambodia’s Ancient Cities: Lidar, Radar, and AI Insights into Ancient Settlements

Abstract: In tropical regions, now lush with dense vegetation, technologies such as lasers, radar, and artificial intelligence have uncovered compelling evidence of extensive preindustrial settlements. In this talk, Klassen will provide an overview of findings from the Cambodian Archaeological Lidar Initiative on early urbanism in Cambodia. It will delve into how lidar scans have enabled archaeologists to detect historical urban landscapes, while also shaping research initiatives to gain a deeper understanding of their evolution, endurance, and vulnerabilities. The resulting maps have prompted a reevaluation of what constituted an ancient Angkorian “city” and have sparked discussions on the boundaries that separate urban from rural areas. Additionally, this research invites comparisons between ancient Angkor and contemporary concepts like settlement scaling in modern cities.

Bio: Dr. Klassen’s research contributes to interdisciplinary dialogues of urbanism, resilience, and water management by providing empirical evidence of these cities’ long-term resilience. She specializes in remotely sensed data (including lidar) and is currently directing the Koh Ker Archaeological Project ( and co-directing the Cambodian Archaeological Lidar Initiative (

Klassen has held prestigious fellowships worldwide and is currently a Research Fellow at the University of Toronto. She has received funding from the National Science Foundation (United States), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the European Research Council, and the Australian Department of Education and Training.

Her research has been highlighted in various press outlets, including a front-page article in The Guardian, “Revealed: Cambodia’s vast medieval cities hidden beneath the jungle,” and an article in The Atlantic, “Unearthing an Origin Story for Gentrification.” She has appeared as an expert contributor and presenter for two specials for The National Geographic Channel, “Chasing the Equinox” and “Ancient China from Above,” and a two-hour special, “Lost Cities of the Jungle,” highlighting the results of The Cambodian Archaeological Lidar Initiative that aired on Discovery.

IBS 155A

Institute of Behavioral Science 1440 15th Street
Boulder, CO 80302