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Scientists Return to Plain of Jars in Laos

Monday, April 19, 2021

Laos Plain of JarsMELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA—According to a statement released by the University of Melbourne, a team of Lao and Australian researchers led by Thonglith Luangkhoth of the Laos Department of Heritage, and Louise Shewan and Dougald O’Reilly of the University of Melbourne, has uncovered additional human burials on the Plain of Jars in northern Laos. The Plain of Jars is known for its more than 2,000 large carved stone jars standing up to nearly ten feet tall. The researchers confirmed that quartz-rich boulders at Site 1 on the Plain of Jars, which is called Ban Hai Hin, were used as place markers for ceramic burial jars placed underground between the eighth and thirteenth centuries A.D. The skeletal remains of infants and children were recovered from these jars during further investigations at the Xieng Khouang Museum. The team also found human remains next to jars at Site 1. Analysis of samples of Site 1’s stone jars and stone at local quarries suggests they were crafted from a sandstone outcropping located about five miles away. Optically stimulated luminescence dating of sediments beneath jars at Site 2, which is located about seven miles from Site 1, indicates that earth underneath the jars was last exposed to light in the late second millennium B.C. The researchers concluded that this range in ages shows that the sites were culturally significant for thousands of years. Read the original scholarly article about this research in PLOS ONE. For more on Laotian archaeology, go to "Letter from Laos: A Singular Landscape."

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