The Plain of Jars: Xiangkhoang, Laos
On 400 archaeological sites spanning an immense expanse of land stretching from Thailand, through Laos, and into northern India, there lies a bizarre oasis of jars. During the 1930’s, Madeline Colani, the French archaeologist, performed an excavation of the Xiangkhoang Plains. Further investigation turned up two enormous chimney’s in a cave in close proximity to the jars. Colani discovered human remains in the jars leading archaeologists to theorize what the jars were actually used for. Colani, however, believed the chimneys were kilns used to cremate remains. Therefore the jars were, in actuality, urns for human ashes.
The Lao theory suggests the jars were created by giants who inhabited them on the plain. The race of giants was ruled by King Khun Cheung. During a celebration after a battle, rice wine was consumed out of the jars, and they were left to represent the celebration of war won. One theory proposes the large urns were used to collect rain water, as a type of rain barrel I suppose. The same theory holds they were used to store food.
The Formation of Jars
The jars are laid in lines, suggesting they may have represented an ancient trade route. A trail of breadcrumbs perhaps for the inhabitats or a connection to villages? Archaeologist Madeline Colani believed salt was a commodity sought after by the Plain of Jars people, bringing the merchants to the Xiangkhoang Plateau. Granite intrusions and hydrothermal activity make the area rich in metallic minerals and iron ore deposits existing in Lao explains the numerous sites. A relationship or relation to trading and mining activities many believe.
“History has also shown that Xieng Khouang at the northern end of the Annamite Range provides relative easy passage from the north and east to the south and west. Within the geographic setting of Xieng Khouang the jar sites may reflect a network of intercultural villages.”
The jars in Xiangkhoang, Laos are made from sandstone and measure as much as ten feet in height and weigh up to thirteen tons. Archaeologists and anthropologists believe the urns were used by the Mon Khmer race and were used from 500 B.C.E to 800 C.E.
Visiting the Plain of Jars
Make haste, as visiting the Plain of Jars is a dangerous venture. The plain is covered with unexploded mines and bombs from the US bombardment in the Secret War from 1962 to 1975. If you are in the area and wish to experience this bizarre site, schedule a trip with an experienced guide.
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