King Jayavarman II (802-850) unified the Khmer kingdom and identified himself with the powerful Hindu deity Shiva. The Khmers of Angkor were sophisticated agriculturalists, advanced engineers, aggressive merchants and intrepid warriors. They developed a splendid irrigation system (with some canals extending forty miles in length), and created grandiose hydraulic works. The hydraulic system of Angkor was used for transportation and for rice cultivation to support a surrounding population estimated at one million people.
During the reign of King Indravarman I (877-889), for example, the vast artificial lake known as the Indratataka was completed. For the harsh purposes of war the Khmer engineers designed machines to launch fearsome arrows and hurl sharp spears at their enemies, and rode boldly into battle atop ornately outfitted elephants.
In the Khmer language, Angkor means the city or the capital. In 889 King Yasovarman I (889-900) constructed his capital on the current site of Angkor, and over the centuries Khmer monarchs augmented the city with their own distinct contributions.
Angkor eventually covered an expanse of 77 square miles and was designed to be completely self-sufficient. The Khmers were magnificent builders in stone and for more than 600 years successive Angkor dynasties commissioned the construction of meticulously detailed temples, such as Banteay Samre, marvelous artificial lakes like the Indratataka, and incomparable temple-mountains, including Angkor Wat–the crown jewel of Angkor and estimated to contain as much stone as the fourth dynasty pyramid of King Khafre in Old Kingdom Kmt (ancient Egypt).