Around Phonsavan, the main city of Xiangkhoang province in Laos, is a large plain with thousands of stone jars. Till today nobody knows why they were there, writes Jean-Francois Perigois.
The Plain of Jars, in Phonsavan in Laos, is a nine-hour bus trip from Luang Prabang. It is certainly worth the trip and the plain consists of thousands of stone jars scattered around the upland valleys and the lower foothills of the central plain of the Xiangkhoang Plateau. The jars are mostly arranged in clusters ranging in number from one to several hundred.
According to Atlas Obscura, The Plain of Jars received relatively little Western attention until the 1930s, when French archaeologist Madeleine Colani began surveying the area.
“Though previous reports of the jars had cited the existence of goods such as carnelian beads, jewelry, and axes, the site was mostly looted by the time Colani arrived. Despite this, Colani discovered a nearby cave housing human remains, such as burned bones and ash, leading her to believe that the jars were funeral urns for chieftains.
“Colani excavated the artifacts, some of which dated to between 500 BC and 800 AD, and published her findings in The Megaliths of Upper Laos,” Atlas Obscura states in their site.
Previously, the sites were riddled with unexploded ordnance (UXO) and the Lao government closed the area off to tourists. Over the past decade, however, much effort has gone into cleaning up the UXO and now there are safe walking paths throughout the area. A word of advice, though, just don’t stray too far from the path.
Guesthouses are able to arrange for a reasonably priced taxi if you want to visit the three main jar sites. It’s also possible to rent motorcycles.
Site 1 is about 15km southwest of Phonsavan and has about 300 jars. Site 2 is about 25km south of Phonsavan and contains about 90 jars spread over two hills. Site 3 is about 35km southeast of Phonsavan and contains about 150 jars. It’s actually only 10km away from site 2.