The mysterious ‘Plain of Jars’, the final resting place for thousands of dead babies and children, experts say

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The mysterious ‘Plain of Jars’ in Laos, has long been a source of fascination for archaeologists, and is now revealing more of his terrible secrets.

The stone jars which, up to a height of 10 metres, dot the landscape in Xieng Khouang Province in central Laos. There are more than 2,100 from the cut of megalithic jars in the area, according to the UNESCO, it is to rely on the ‘Plain of Jars’, a World Heritage site.

The strange megalithic structures were first examined in the 1930’s, although there are only limited studies have been conducted since then, according to the experts, in a paper published in the journal Antiquity. While it is well known that the vessels were used for mortuary activity, there has been relatively little has been known about the characteristics of the human remains placed in the pot.


A 2016, and excavation of an area known as “site 1”, with almost 400 pots, however, has shed new light on the use of the mysterious structure. The study shows that “a range of mortuary practices, and high rates of infant and child mortality, and the new evidence, the dating of these interments, the 9th to the 13th centuries AD,” the experts write in the latest issue of the journal Antiquity.

The ceramic mortuary vessels found in the excavations.
(figure on the Plain of Jars, the Research Project in 2016/Ancient)

The researchers found that more than 60% of the mortuary population at site 1 was less than 15 years of age, and nearly half of those who died in the fetal stage or in early childhood. The high infant and fetal mortality recorded in site 1 indicate that poor health and/or malnutrition has been a problem for the local population, the researchers write.

While the remains of 18 people were found during the excavation of site 1, researchers at the Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, James Cook university, the University of Otago and the Lao Department of Heritage, to say that there are thousands and thousands more may be buried there.


The Plain of Jars, is seen in this undated file photo, thousands of stone jars are scattered all around the terraces of the valleys and the lower slopes of the central plain of Xiangkhoang Plateau in Laos, dating back to the iron age (500 BC to ad 500). It is one of the most important prehistoric sites in South-east Asia. (Photo by: Avalon/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

“An extrapolation of the number of persons who have recovered from a modest area of the site, the mortuary, the people of the whole of the site, which can number in the thousands,” they write in the Ancient world. It is possible to be 8,280 to be buried at the site 1, they will be added.

The megalithic sites are in Laos, are often dated to the Southeast Asian iron age, between 500 bc. in 500 A. D., so that, in the age of the interments at the site 1, between the 9th and the 13th century A. D. it is also significant for the archaeologists. “This is not necessarily the date of the great on the site, however, the carbon sample from the bottom of the pots to indicate that it has been set to c. The AD 1163-1256,” they write.


The pots in the sand of the archeological site of the Plain of Jars, plain of Xiang Khoang, Vientiane.
(The Fact That The Editorial/Getty)

More work is planned in order to unlock the development of the ‘Plain of jars’, and their role in the ancient society it served. The mortuary use of the site, it is now firmly established, with the specific purpose of the burial chambers and pots remains unresolved,” the researchers write. “In the future, research is planned for the site, and can ultimately lead to a final answer.”

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