via PLoS One, 10 March 2021: A exciting new paper by Shewan et al. dates the Plain of Jars to as early as the late second millennium BC, while the associated burials to a more fairly recent 9-13th centuries CE. This means a potential 2,000-year-old gap between the two events!
The megalithic jar sites of Laos (often referred to as the Plain of Jars) remain one of Southeast Asia’s most mysterious and least understood archaeological cultures. The sites, recently inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage, host hollowed stone jars, up to three metres in height, which appear scattered across the landscape, alone or clustered in groups of up to more than 400. Until now, it has not been possible to estimate when the jars were first placed on the landscape or from where the stone was sourced. Geochronological analysis using the age of detrital zircons demonstrates a likely quarry source for one of the largest megalithic jar sites. Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating suggests the jars were positioned at the sites potentially as early as the late second millennium BC. Radiocarbon dating of skeletal remains and charcoal samples places mortuary activity around the jars from the 9-13th century AD, suggesting the sites have maintained ritual significance from the period of their initial placement until historic times.