Thursday, March 31, 2016

Australian Archaeologist Uncovers Human Remains in Ancient Jars

Plain of Jars

Discovery of 2500 Years Old Human Remains – Plain of Jars

An Australian archaeologist has uncovered 2500 year old human remains in central Laos’ Plain of Jars which marks a dynamic step in solving the mysteries of that region. The discoveries were done during the excavation carried out in February 2016, led by a team of Australian and Lao researchers comprising of Dr Louise Shewan from the Monash Warwick Alliance and Centre for Archaeology and Ancient History, Dr Dougald O’Reilly from Australian National University and Dr. Thonglith Luangkhoth of the Lao Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.

The field work had been a five year project financed by the Australian Research Council, focused on revealing the mysteries of the 90-plus jar sites including who made the jars, what they were intended for and how the site came into being. The Plain of Jars sites situated in the central Lao province of Xieng Khouang, includes large carved stone jars of various sizes, some of which are as big as two metres in diameter and three metres high. Originally it had drawn the attention of science by French researcher Madeleine Colani in 1930s. The sites have remained unaffected owing to the huge quantity of unexploded bombs in the vicinity, the outcome of heavy bombing in 1970s during the Secret War in Laos.

Ancient Burial Ground

The latest excavations, the first main excavation in almost two decades revealed ancient burial ground in area known as `Site 1’ as well as various burial methods comprising of internment of whole bodies, burying of bundled bone and the bundled bone kept in ceramic vessels and then buried. The precise purpose of the jars that tends to date back to the Iron Age seems unknown, along with the civilization of the people who left the jars which tend to weight around 10 tonnes each.

They had been dragged from quarries up to 10 km away. Dougald O’Reilly, chief investigator of the project said that `one of the big questions is what were the jars used for and that is something they hope to shed a little bit of light’. The project is being built on the research carried by Colani who was of the belief that the jars were used for holding the dead and the discovery of the human remains, confirms this theory.

UNESCO’s World Heritage Listing

Dr O’Reilly stated that it’s fascinating the amount of effort that was put into the mortuary aspect of the culture at this time’. The remains was identified on using ground penetrating radar since there was nothing remaining in the jars, that had been worn away by the elements over 2000 years. Research in the region had been stalled for decades after the bombing by the Americans during the Vietnam War which left the area littered with unexploded weapons that continued to be a source of problems.

The search sites have been cleared and may lead it to being included to the UNESCO’s World Heritage listing. Dr O’Reilly told AAP that for everybody involved, it’s really exciting to have the opportunity of working at one of the Southeast Asia’s most important archaeological site and possibly one of the region’s least understood archaeological sites’.

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