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  General and Old World HistoryAsiaSoutheastern AsiaLaos
Plain of Jars

an archaeological wonder that encompasses some 90 separate sites throughout the Xieng Khouang Province of Laos

Plain of Jarslocation of the Plain of JarsThe name Plain of Jars refers to the 3,000+ stone "jars" scattered across those sites. Each "jar" is carved from a single block of stone (usually sandstone, a few from granite or limestone), stands 3 to 10 feet high, and weighs up to 7 tons. Although all appear to have originally had lids, none have yet been found with their lids still intact, suggesting that the lids were probably made of wood or some other organic material. Most are plain, but recent archaeological work has uncovered a few decorated with carvings and some show evidence of having once been painted.

Local legend says that the jars were made to celebrate a great military victory some 1,500 years ago. The plain, so the story goes, was ruled by an evil king named Chao Angka, who oppressed his people so terribly that they appealed to a good king to the north, named Khun Jeuam, to liberate them. Khun Jeuam and his army came, and after waging a great battle on the plain, defeated Chao Angka. Khun Jeuam then ordered the construction of large jars to be used in making wine for a victory celebration.

Recent research has determined that the jars are actually funerary urns dating to the Iron Age (500 BCE to 500 CE). Who made them remains a mystery, however. Scientific work at the sites is extremely difficult because the Plain of Jars is literally explosive -- tens of thousands of unexploded bombs dropped during the Vietnam War litter the entire area.

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  The Robinson Library > General and Old World History > Asia > Southeastern Asia > Laos

This page was last updated on September 27, 2015.

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