via Archaeological Research in Asia, 25 November 2021: A new paper by O’Reilly et al. with results of an excvation at the Plain of Jars Site 67. Here the jars are found both buried and exposed.
Thousands of carved stone jars dot the landscape of Northern Laos, yet little is known about this expansive megalithic culture, the people who carved and transported the jars, or where they lived. The jar sites, now numbering in excess of 120, are identified primarily by the presence of exposed 1–3 m tall stone jars, with stone discs and exotic grave-marker boulders also recorded at some sites. Much less common is in the incidence of buried stone jars, noted from as few as eighteen sites, though it is likely more exist, concealed beneath dense forest cover. In this paper, we present the findings from a site known as Site 67, located near the village of Ban Pha Tai in Xieng Khouang Province, where nine jars including three buried jars are located. A rescue excavation on one of these buried jars was undertaken in 2020. Found near or within the vessel, were iron tools, ceramic sherds, glass beads and fragmented, cremated bone. The presence of these artefacts suggests a ritual use of the jar and charcoal and bone samples were retrieved providing dates that fall within the Iron Age (c. 500 BC-500 AD) and the historic period (post-100 AD). These periods are times of dynamic change in Southeast Asia with evidence of increasing complexity and, in the historic period, the rise of states including Angkor. The existence of both buried and exposed jars at the site suggests that temporal variation in mortuary ritual may have existed, or perhaps re-purposing of previously exposed jars is indicated, and should be explored further.