Recent archaeological investigations and technological applications have increased our appreciation of the intricacies of pre-Angkorian societal development. The results reveal a transformative period characterised by increasing socio-political complexity, exchange and technological transfer, differences in burial wealth, growing levels of conflict and variation in site morphology. Among the excavated Iron Age sites in Cambodia, Lovea, near the heart of Angkor, is well placed to provide a greater understanding of these changes in this region. Excavation and remote sensing confirm that the two moats surrounding Lovea are testimony to the early adoption of water-management strategies. These strategies grew in complexity, culminating in the vast network of canals, reservoirs and tanks that are the hallmarks of the hydraulic society of Angkor.