The mysterious Plain of Jars is an archaeological site in central Laos that has thousands of stone vessels scattered across the ground. Archaeologists have also found many of these jars in forested and mountainous regions of Laos. They have long tried to figure out why the stone jars were littered across this remote part of Laos.
Archaeologists recently unearthed an ancient burial site and human remains at the Plain of Jars. The burial site is estimated to be 2,500 years old, and could help researchers glean new information about the mysterious site.
The researchers are also using data from the excavations and video from aerial drones to recreate the archaeological site in virtual reality. This means scientists can revisit and review their field work in Laos from more than 4,000 miles away, in Australia. [Read full story about the virtual reality project at the Plain of Jars]
Uncovering the unknown
Ancient burial practices
Jar Site 1 is the best known of more than 85 ancient jar sites in the remote hills and valleys of the Xieng Khouang plateau in Laos.
The area was heavily bombed by American warplanes during the Vietnam War and only seven jar sites, including Site 1, have been cleared of undetonated bombs.
View from above
Looking toward heaven
Exploring an ancient civilization
Excavating the site
Archaeologists Louise Shewan, of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia (center), and Dougald O’Reilly, from Australian National University in Canberra (right), are directing a major five-year investigation of the Plain of Jars site. This photograph shows the researchers removing human teeth from the underside of one of the sandstone disks used to mark some of the ancient graves at Jar Site 1.
Genetic material from the ancient teeth with be used for DNA analysis, while traces of radioactive strontium will be used to identify the geological signature of the area where the people buried here gathered their food.
Eyes in the sky
Seeing through the trees
Aerial drones will also be used to map jar sites that are too rugged for traditional archaeological methods, such as Jar Site 52, shown here, which is in broken country covered by trees and bush.
Drones also let the researchers explore some of the many jar sites where undetonated cluster bombs left over from the bombardment of Laos during the Vietnam War make it too dangerous to dig.
Origin of the stones
Scattered with jars
Following a pioneer
The archaeologists who explored the site this year hoped to expand on Colani finds with new excavations.
Mini stone jars
Scientists say the new finds show that the mysterious culture that carved the stone jars was more widespread than previously thought.
Did giants create the jars?
Archaeologists now think that at least some the jars were used in burial rituals, to expose dead bodies for a time before their bones were cleaned and buried. But nothing is known about the ancient people who made them.