The Plain of Jars

1/ The Plain of Jars is a region located in northern Laos Xieng Khouang, characterized by the presence of towering ancient stone jars fields whose meaning and origin are not yet fully understood. It extends over an area of ‚Äč‚Äčabout 1000 km2. 

2/ Location

The main fields jars are located in the province of Xieng Khouang, on a plateau around Phonsavan. This plateau has an average altitude of 1,200 meters; this is where the main concentrations are found jars.

This sector has been among the most bombed by the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War regions: plus 500 air attacks per month depending on the Rolling Thunder program (continuous thunder), figures from the Pentagon Papers, an attack every eight minutes for nine years according to journalist Fred Branfman who denounced this unnecessary pounding in his book Voices from the Plain of Jars: Life under an Air War. Branfman proved, supporting maps, the Plain of Jars was not on the path of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which served the North Vietnamese to supply arms to the fighters of the South. Many non- defused bombs are still present, which makes it very dangerous studying and visiting areas jars: at present, only three areas (site 1, 2, 3) are open to visitors.

In all, more than sixty different sites that are scattered over the area of the Plain of Jars, the center is in Laos, the main concentrations of up to 250 units. But there are also sites similar, although less dramatic, the Korat Plateau in Thailand and northern India, leading some researchers to suggest a distribution covering a route of trade by caravans.

Currently, steps are underway to classify the Plain of Jars in the World Heritage List of UNESCO, and demining campaigns are conducted by international organizations.

Only three sites are open to the public, Thong Hai Hin which , with 250 jars weighing 600 pounds to 6 tons. 

3/ Nature jars

Site 1 jar with a lid.

The jars are arranged in groups, without visible alignment. They come in different sizes, from one to three meters in height, measuring up to eight feet in circumference, weighing 500 kg to several tons to the largest (which can contain up to ten men standing). They were cut into blocks of monolithic rocks from the region calcareous sandstone, and sometimes granite. They are sometimes half buried.

Are also sometimes found near some of them, of a disk having been used as a stone cover. Their shape is quite simple, often cylindrical, rarely angular; jars have no decorations or inscriptions. No other ancient architectural relic or habitat is present in the region, leaving the jars without archaeological context.

4/ Archaeological Study

The first archaeological site survey was conducted in 1930 by Madeleine Colani of the French School of the Far East. She began excavations on several jars and in a cave near the site 1 and has a natural fireplace, in which were found significant traces of fire and charred human bones. She speculated that this cave was a natural incinerator at the funeral and the ashes were subsequently preserved in jars. Unfortunately, the elements of dating bones found in the cave or near the jars are spread over time, and do not allow to draw definite conclusions.

The work of Madeleine Colani remain a basis for archaeologists seeking to unravel the mystery of the Plain of Jars, including Marcello Zego. It is hypothesized that these megaliths, accompanied by objects bronze and iron, could be monuments, works of the first Indochinese occupants of civilization between the Aboriginal Kha and Cambodian.

The scientific community can not yet give only conjectural explanations about the dating of these stone jars on a period from 5000 BC. 800 AD; and there are several theories on their destination: urns, food storage or water tanks for fermentation alcohol production ... No not explain the number of megaliths weighing between 600 kg and 7 tonnes, or how they were taken on five sites in the plain while the sandstone in which they are cut from the mountain range between Luang Prabang and Xieng Khouang. Local legends are innumerable, and the inhabitants of the region continue to invent the use of tourists.

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