Quirks & Quarks

Mysterious Stone Jars May Have Held Human Remains

The jars on the Plain of Jars in Laos may once have held human remains

The jars on the Plain of Jars in Laos may once have held human remains

Stone containers on the Plain of Jars
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Since it was first studied in the 1930's, scientists have been mystified by the so-called Plain of Jars in Laos. The site is one of more than 80 around the country that all include giant, carved stone vessels; some sites with hundreds of jars, others with just one or two.

Scientists thought they were put in place at least 2,000 years ago. The jars vary in size; some are two metres in height, and one is thought to weigh 14 tons. Others are much smaller. Recent excavations at the site have researchers, including Canadian Dr. Dougald O'Reilly from the Australian National University in Canberra, hypothesizing that the jars may have used to hold human remains until they had decomposed. This is based on the discovery of human bones buried near the jars.

The Government of Laos is hoping to have the Plain of Jars declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Related Links

- Australian National University release
- Smithsonian Magazine story
- Christian Science Monitor story
BBC News story
- UNESCO Plain of Jars site