Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Plain Jars – Laos, Most Mysterious

The Plain Jars
The Plain of Jars in central Laos is one of the Southeast Asia’s most mysterious sites on Earth which is a misunderstood prehistoric place. It is shrouded in myth and mystery fascinating both archaeologist as well as scientists since its discovery in 1930s.

End numbers of large stone jars each weighing several tones, of unknown ancient originhave been found scattered around the Xieng Khouang plain in Laos forming one of the most awesome archaeological collections which appear in clusters and range from a single jar to several in number, on the lower foothills which surround the central plain and the upland valleys.

The Xieng Khouang Plateau is situated at the northern area of the Annamese Cordillera, which is the main mountain range of Indochina. Research done in early 1930 of the Plain of Jars claimed that the stone jars were associated with prehistoric burial activities.

Excavations carried out by Japanese archaeologist together with Lao in the intervening year, have also supported the interpretation with the discovery of human remains, burial goods and ceramics round the stone jars.

Fascinating Sites for Study of Southeast Asian Prehistory

The Plain Jars
The Plain of Jars date back to the Iron Age from 500 BC to 500 AD and is one of those fascinating sites for studying Southeast Asian prehistory.

 It also has the potential to enlighten on the relationship between the complex societies as well as the megalithic structures providing an understanding in the social organisation of Iron Age Southeast Asia’s communities.

There are over ninety sites within the province of Xieng Khouang with each site ranging from 1 up to 400 stone jars where the jars vary in diameter and height between 1 and 3 meters. These have been hewn out of rock and their shape is cylindrical with the bottom being wider than the top.

These stone jars are not decorated with the exception of one jar at Site 1 which has a human bas relief that has been carved on its exterior. China is drawn parallel between `frogman’ at Site 1 and the rock painting at Huashan in Guangxi. The paintings depict large full frontal humans with arms that have been raised and the knees bent which date back to 500 BC-200 BC.

Stone Markers to Mark Grave

The Plain Jars
Most of the jars have lip rims presuming that all stone jars supported lids though few stone lids have been recorded indicating that the bulk of lids could be fashioned from perishable material and hence no trace of them.

Stone lids with animal have been observed at some of the sites like Ban Phakeo while the bas relief animals are presumed to be monkeys, frogs and tigers.

The Plain Jars
Besides the stone lids there are also stone discs which have one flat side and are grave markers placed on the surface to either cover or mark a burial pit and these grave markers are found more infrequently than stone jars and in close proximity.

Besides these, there are other stone markers which are not worked upon but have been placed intentionally to mark a grave.

 Towards north of Xieng Khouang one will find an extensive network of intentionally placed largely unworked stones which mark elaborate burial pits while the chambers are known as standing stones of Huaphan. On observation it indicated that they belonged to the Bronze Age.

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