Ankor Wat is the majestic work of Suryavarman II. It was built from 1113 to 1150, when the Khmer civilization was at the height of its development, represent one of humankind's most astonishing and enduring architectural achievements.
The lands where the city of Angkor stands were not chosen as a settlement site because of any pre-existing sacred importance, but rather for their strategic military position and agricultural potential.
The Thais sacked Angkor in 1431 and the Khmers abandoned the city in 1432, after this the city was more or less 'lost' for a few centuries. Recognizing the sacred nature of the temples but ignorant of their origins, they invented fables about the mysterious sanctuaries, saying they had been built by the gods in a far ancient time. Centuries passed, these fables became legends, and pilgrims from the distant reaches of Asia sought out the mystic city of the gods.
Few people believed the stories to be anything more than legend however, until Henri Mouhot, a French explorer brought Angkor to the world's attention in 1860. The French people were enchanted with the ancient city and beginning in 1908 funded and superbly managed an immense restoration project. The restoration has continued to the present day, excepting periods in the 70's and 80's when military fighting prevented archaeologists from living near the ruins.