Investigating Angkor

Investigating Angkor

Background image: buildings and palm trees surrounding temple complex
Image credit:
Courtesy of the Visualizing Angkor Project - Monash University

Investigating Angkor

What can history and archaeology teach us about how human societies interact with each other and with the environment? How can investigating the past help us understand modern identities and ask better questions about our own futures as we now face shifts in our climate and environment?

Investigating Angkor is a working group for middle and high school teachers that will engage with these questions through a sustained study of the Khmer empire with its capital at Angkor. 

Why Angkor?

Angkor was the capital of the Khmer empire, whose 9th-15th century domination of mainland Southeast Asia offers valuable lessons in politics, transregional interactions, and environmental change. Studying Angkor offers an opportunity to deepen core historical themes. In the pre-modern period these themes include: the spread and expression of belief systems and religious syncretism, regional interconnections through trade and diplomacy, the emergence of political hierarchies, the physical infrastructure of state-building. It provides an example of how political structures and day-to-day life were transformed in a place where a changing physical environment was intertwined with political and social shifts. In the modern period, teachers can revisit the Khmer empire to help students understand the role of historical memory in the construction of national identities.

Participants in Investigating Angkor will learn about the history, art, archaeology, and legacies of Angkor and develop lessons for their own classrooms based around this material.

Curriculum Alignment

Southeast Asia is often underrepresented in social studies curricula in both middle school and high school. However, there are multiple places to incorporate the study of Angkor into world history, art history, and other social studies courses. Here you can see how the study of Angkor fits into the California, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island history-social studies standards & frameworks, as well as AP World History and AP Art History courses.

Team + Schedule + Stipend


  • 15 teachers from middle school, high school, and community college classrooms.
  • Lead scholar-expert: Dr. Miriam Stark, Director of CSEAS at University of Hawai’i
  • Facilitator/Pedagogy: Shane Carter, Program Coordinator for ORIAS at UC Berkeley
  • Session 4 scholar-expert: Dr. Piphal Heng, postdoctoral scholar at Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA

Program Schedule

  • October 2023 - May 2024: Seven 2-hour online meetings with scholar-experts. Participants will be asked to do ~90 minutes of preparatory reading before each meeting.

  • June - August 2024: Participants work independently to create a 3-day (or longer) lesson appropriate to their own teaching context.

  • September 2024: Participants will convene to share and discuss lessons


Each teacher-participant will receive a stipend of $1150 upon completion of the program.

stone bas relief carving of seated king with audience

Sessions & Materials

Session 1

November 12, 2023

Instructor: Dr. Miriam Stark

Session 2

December 16, 2023

Instructor: Dr. Miriam Stark

Read ONE option

30 minutes

Get started with a historical overview of the pre-Angkorian and Angkorian periods. You have three options. You only need to read ONE of these.


60 minutes


  • Professor Andrew Chittick’s StoryMap, "Maritime Asia in the Third Century CE"  Note: This is a complicated document, but it gives you very good insight into how historians interpret textual evidence about Funan.

    • This StoryMap draws on texts produced in the Wu Kingdom during the 3rd century CE. This was during the Three Kingdoms Period, after the breakdown of the centralized Han Dynasty. Wu was the southernmost of the Three Kingdoms and sent at least one embassy southeast to Funan.

    • Read Section II: Funan & Section III: Funan Seas for primary sources about Funan

    • Read the Introduction to learn more about the sources and the historical context

    • Note: Advanced students (AP) could tackle one or two of these documents if you provide context. They would probably struggle with the website itself.

  • Why do we call Southeast Asia this term? This is a scholarly bite-sized lecture on the topic:

Session 3

February 3, 2024

Instructor: Dr. Miriam Stark


90 minutes

Read sections 1-7, 9-20, 33-34, and 39-40 from Customs of Cambodia (author Zhou Daguan, trans. Uk)

If you have additional time, read other sections in this priority order: 

  • Sections 21-32 (Animals! Utensils! Palanquins! Not essential, but gives a real flavor of the place).

  • Section 38 (Sociological)

  • Sections 8, 35-37 (Kind of interesting, but the contentions about virgins (section 8) are unverifiable and the others are just a little less compelling).

Session 4

March 3, 2024

Instructor: Dr. Piphal Heng


~60 minutes

Please watch each of the following excerpts.


~30 minutes

Please spend your remaining 30 minutes of prep time exploring one of the following lessons or articles. 

Session 5

March 23, 2024

Instructor: Dr. Miriam Stark


~75 minutes


~15 minutes

Session 6

April 14, 2024

Instructor: Dr. Paul Lavy


~30 minutes

Watch ONE

30 - 60 minutes

Optional prep

  • Another source to learn about the looting of artifacts is the Dynamite Doug podcast about looting of artifacts from Cambodia.

  • For information about components of cities, navigating cities, and life in Angkor as depicted in its artwork, watch Piphal Heng’s lecture “Angkor: People, Monument, City, Statecraft” (11:06 - 30:24 and 34:13 - 47:16) 

Session 7

May 19, 2024

Instructor: Dr. Penelope Edwards


  • Edwards, Penny. “Inarguably Angkor.” in The Angkorian World, eds. Mitch Hendrickson, Miriam T. Stark & Damian Evans, Routledge 2023.

Optional Viewing