No one knows for sure what the jars were used for. Source: Wikimedia
One of the world’s most mystifying archaeological sites has been seen from a new angle thanks to advances in drone technology.
The Plain of Jars in Laos is peppered with thousands of stone jars thought to date back to the Iron Age while their function is still open to debate.
Exploration of the intriguing site is hampered as Xieng Khouang province is covered with unexploded ordnance dropped by the US Air Force during the Vietnam War.
Hoping to target North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao communist forces, the Americans dropped more bombs on Laos between 1964 and 1973 than it did on all areas during the entire Second World War. It is estimated nearly a third of the two million tonnes of explosives dropped did not explode.
Laos became the most heavily bombed country in the world during the war.
As Vientiane and the UN’s cultural agency Unesco work to clear the region of bombs and restore the jars, drone footage of the plains has been shot, highlighting the clusters of jars and bomb craters caused by the bombardment.
The footage, from a Parrot Bebop drone, show the safe paths that visitors must remain on.
Believed to be involved in ancient burial rites, Unesco said of the jars: “The artefacts … constitute an exceptional collection for the study of the late prehistory of mainland Southeast Asia.
“The jars’ striking and enigmatic presence has given to the Xieng Khouang plateau the name The Plain of Jars; little is yet known for certain about the people and culture which produced them.”
The Lao government wants the site named as a Unesco world heritage site.
The UK’s Daily Telegraph’s Sebastian Berger wrote: “Ringed by mountains, the plateau is a magnificent place to spend eternity.
“The containers are gathered in seemingly haphazard clusters on promontories and levels, some upright, others fallen over. They reveal scant details of their origins.”
In 1930s French archaeologist Madeleine Colani suggested the jars were used in burials while Lao and Japanese research supported this theory when they found human remains in 90 sites.
The jars could have been where bodies were left to decompose before a final burial, Southeast Asian Archaeology newsblog said.
The province is home to more than 2,000 stone jars, believed to be 2,000 years old with an unknown number destroyed during the war.
It is one of the biggest uninvestigated archaeological sites in Southeast Asia.