Plain of Jars

In the midway between the capital Vientiane and Luang Prabang lies a mountainous limestone karst area of Xieng Khouang Province. The province has almost 200 000 population including the large proportions of ethnic minority people mostly Hmong and Vietnamese.

Plain of Jars is an intriguing archaeological site deep in the mountains of Xieng Khouang. Plain of Jars has a bizarre collection of mysterious antique stone jars scattered across the war-scarred countryside. The jars are presumed to be one of the oldest archeological sites in Southeast Asia. The origin of these jars is still obscure as well as its composition. Some jars are made from sandstone, granite, conglomerate while others are made from limestone.

Plain of Jars considered as the last traces of ancient civilization positioned next to 30 years crater and unexploded US ordinance left by the ultimate aerial salvo of all time. There are more than 60 jar sites that have been found and identified on the promontories and mountain ridges. However, only three sites are opened for visitors; the Thong Hai Hin (Site 1), Hai Hin Phu Salato (Site 2), and the Hai Hin Laat Khai (Site 3). A number of sites contain more than 250 jars. These jars weigh about 14 tons and height ranging from 1 to 3m. The tallest jar is about 3m in height and over a meter in width. While most of the jars are undecorated, a few have carved of human bas-relief, figures or faces. The circular stone discs, assumed to be the lids adjoining the jars are also carved with image of human and animals particularly monkeys or tigers.

In 1930’s French archeologist Madeleine Coloni, did an extensive study on jars of Xieng Khouang. According to the research made the plain of jars were created by a civilization that thriven between 300 BC and 300 AD. Artifacts collected during the study were bronze and iron tools, bracelets, cowry shells and glass beads and charred human bone fragments, supporting the hypothesis that these were funeral urns carved by an extinct Bronze Age people.

In 1994 excavation lead by Eiji Nitta of Kagoshima University, a carving of a human figure on the side of the jar was sited, this is the first anthropomorphic image recorded at the area. Pits being covered by seven flat stones were also discovered, six of of the seven pits contain human bones and one contains two-foot-tall burial jar with small pieces of bone and teeth inside. The discovered pits were suggested to be sites of secondary burial (corpse is left to decompose into it essence).

The Plains of Luang Prabang is a shocking revelation of what happened in the course of the Secret War in Laos during 1964-1973. During the nine years of war there were more than 580 000 bombing missions over Laos. Over two tons of bomb per person were released, which turned Laos into the most bombed country in the history, eventually destroyed Xieng Khouang. More than 30% of the cluster bombs units (CBU’s) and unknown percentage of other types of ordinance failed to explode during the war thus, it continues to injure and kill hundreds of people every year.

The administration of Xiang Khouang Province, government of Lao PDR and UNESCO started a multi-yearly phrased programme to safeguard and develop the Plain of Jars. Clearing the large quantity of the unexploded ordinances (UXOs) is needed in order to make it possible for exploration and appreciation of the jars without fear on landmines. In order to protect the safety of the visitors mark paths are placed, since the UXO still hunt the region.

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