Mitch Hendrickson

Associate Professor


PhD University of Sydney 2007, MA University of Calgary 2001, BA (Hons) University of Calgary 1995


Mainland SE Asia

Topics of Interest:

Angkor and the Khmer Empire, premodern state expansion, transportation and communication systems, industrial production (iron, ceramics), archaeology of religion (Buddhism), social applications of GIS and remote sensing

Personal Statement

I am a historical landscape archaeologist interested in the operation of premodern states, with a specific focus on the expansion of the Angkorian Khmer Empire (9th to 15th c. CE) in what is today Cambodia, Thailand and Laos. My work combines multi-scalar and multidisciplinary evidence to address how Angkor came to be the predominant polity in mainland Southeast Asia. To study the process of expansion I consider the interplay of individual agency and state institutions through approaches based in transportation and mobility theory, archaeometallurgy and monuments as artifacts. I am also actively investigating the material evidence of religious change in an urban milieu, specifically the shift from Mahayana to Theravada Buddhism at the Angkorian complex of Preah Khan of Kompong Svay.

Prior to studying the Khmer culture, I worked on the prehistoric space-time systematics of Medio period polychrome ceramics in the Casas Grandes region, Chihuahua, Mexico.


Since 2009, I have directed the Industries of Angkor Project (INDAP) an international multidisciplinary project focused on assessing the role of iron as a catalyst of expansion for the Khmer Empire. To address this issue, INDAP focusses on two important loci in north-central Cambodia: the massive Angkorian temple complex of Preah Khan of Kompong Svay and the rich iron resources of Phnom Dek ('Iron Mountain'), located 30km to the east. Work at Preah Khan focusses on documenting the industrial, settlement and environmental history of this urban complex, which was established during the main period of Angkorian expansion in the 11th to 13th centuries. In conjunction with Dr. Stéphanie Leroy at the CEA Saclay (France), our studies at Phnom Dek have documented a vast industrial landscape that contains over a 1000 years of iron production. Using traditional survey, excavation and field archaeometric techniques we continue to document the history of iron smelting as well as important changes in production intensity, technology and patterns of exchange. This research was initially supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery Project and National Geographic CRE and is currently funded by a Senior Research grant from the National Science Foundation.

Industries of Angkor Project excavation of iron smelting furnaces at the Tonle Bak site, Preah Vihear

Dr. Leroy and I also co-direct The Iron and Angkor Project (IRANGKOR), which combines the field evidence of INDAP with an intensive study of iron objects to reconstruct the broader iron economy of the Khmer Empire. Using the latest archaeometric protocols, IRANGKOR is investigating changes in the iron economy through a variety of different classes of iron objects including iron architectural crampons, tools, weapons and armatures found inside bronze statuary. By combining evidence of morphology, chemistry and chronology we attempt to identify whether different iron alloys were selected for different purposes and whether the quality and source changed during the peak expansionary periods of the Khmer Empire (11th 13th c. CE).  This work is funded by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (France).

My other research focus is the Two Buddhist Towers Project, a multidisciplinary collaboration examining the material transition between Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism at Preah Khan of Kompong Svay. Two preliminary seasons of excavation have revealed a densely occupied urban space with considerable evidence of craft production and wealth accumulation. Preah Khan represents the richest site beyond Angkor and also appears to have been a major enclave of Buddhism in the Angkorian period. Funding for the TBT was provided by the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Collaborative Research Fellowships/ACLS. The Two Buddhist Towers Website can be found here.

Two Buddhist Towers project excavation of the standing Buddha tower known as Preah Chatumukh at Preah Khan of Kompong Svay

Research Opportunities 

The following are a few of the potential topics for graduate student involvement with INDAP:

Utilitarian ceramics – typology, use and production of earthenware pottery in the Angkorian world

Architectural archaeology – construction and sourcing of building materials (stone to ceramic roof tiles) using archaeometric approaches

Decorative Reuse –analysis of reworking and looting of bas-reliefs and carvings via 3-D modelling and photogrammetry

Industrial Waste – access, control and organization of iron ore procurement using chemical and morphological approaches

Select Publications

Leroy, Stéphanie, M. Hendrickson, S. Bauvais, T. Blanchet, A. Disser, E. Vega,and  E. Delque-Kolic. The Ties that Bind: Archaeometallurgical typology of architectural crampons as a method for reconstructing the iron economy of Angkor, Cambodia (10th to 13th c.). Archaeological and Anthropological Science. Online July 2017.

Hendrickson, Mitch, Stéphanie Leroy, Quan Hua, Phon Kaseka and Voeun Vuthy. Smelting in the Shadow of the Iron Mountain: Preliminary Field Investigation of the Industrial Landscape around Phnom Dek, Cambodia (Ninth to Twentieth Centuries A.D.). Asian Perspectives 56(1):55-91.

Hall, Tegan, Dan Penny, Mitch Hendrickson, Colin Cooke and Quan Hua 2016. "Iron and Fire: geoarchaeological history of a Khmer industrial city during the decline of the Angkor Kingdom". Journal of Archaeological Science Reports 6:53-63.

Hendrickson, Mitch and Damian Evans. 2015. "Reimagining the City of Fire and Iron: A landscape archaeology of the Angkor-Period Industrial Complex of Preah Khan of Kompong Svay, Cambodia (ca. 9th to 13th centuries A.D.)". Journal of Field Archaeology 5:1-21.

Pryce, T. Oliver, Mitch Hendrickson, Kaseka Phon, Sovichetra Chan, Michael F. Charlton, Stéphanie Leroy, Philippe Dillmann, and Quan Hua. "The Iron Kuay of Cambodia: Tracing the role of peripheral populations in Angkorian to Colonial Cambodia via a 1200 year old industrial landscape." Journal of Archaeological Science 47:142–163.

Hendrickson, Mitch, Quan Hua and T. Oliver Pryce. "Using in-slag charcoals as an indicator of ‘terminal’ iron production within the Angkorian (10th-13th centuries AD) center of Preah Khan of Kompong Svay, Cambodia." Radiocarbon 55(1):31-47.

Pottier, Christophe, Dan Penny, Mitch Hendrickson and Elizabeth Carter. "Unearthing an Atlantean Myth in Angkor: Geoarchaeological investigation of the ‘underwater road’ crossing the Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia." Journal of Archaeological Science 39:2604-2611.

Hendrickson, Mitch. "A transport geographic perspective on travel and communication in Angkorian Southeast Asia (9th to 15th centuries AD)." World Archaeology 43(3):444-457.

Hendrickson, Mitch. "Historic Routes to Angkor: Development of the Khmer Road System (9th to 13th centuries CE) in mainland Southeast Asia." Antiquity 84(324):480-496.

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Contact Information

Email: Office Phone:(312) 413-3584