The Mysterious Plain of Jars

Often referred to as “an Asian version of Stonehenge”, the Plain of Jars is one of the most enigmatic sights on Earth. Shrouded in mystery and myth, this ancient place has fascinated archeologists and scientists ever since its discovery.

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Thousands of giant stone jars scattered around the Xieng Khouang plain, in Laos form one of the most bizarre archeological collections in history. Although it has been determined they are over 2000 years old, no one has yet been able to determine who built them and for what purpose. Made of sedimentary rock, like sandstone or granite, and calcified coral, the jars weigh up to 13 tons and are between 1 and 3 meters high.

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More than 400 sites have been discovered around the Plain of Jars, but only three of them have been opened to the public. The largest one, named Site 1, is located near the town of Phonsavan and numbers more than 250 stone jars. Various theories regarding the purpose of these megaliths have been formulated, but the most common is they were used to store cremated human remains and set in a linear pattern that follows an ancient trade route. Madeleine Colani, the first architect to ever explore the Plain of Jars, discovered the carved rocks were created by a civilization long extinct.

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But if you ask the locals, they’ll tell you of an old race of giants who once lived in these lands. According to one legend, a giant king commissioned the giant jars to store his lao-lao (tradition alcoholic drink in Laos), in celebration of a victory over his enemies. Another story says the jars were created from congealed buffalo skins to store rice and lao-lao.

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Though there aren’t many roads leading to the Plain of Jars, and tourist numbers are still at a minimum, man still managed to exert his destructive influence over this place. During the ‘60s and ‘70s, while the eyes of the world were pointed at Vietnam, the USA managed to drop more bombs on Laos than they did on Germany and Japan, during World War II, making it the most bombed country in the history of mankind. The pieces of cracked megaliths and giant craters stand as proof of America’s Secret War.

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This is actually one of the reasons why the mysterious Plain of Jars hasn’t yet realized its full potential as a tourist attraction. More than 30% of the bombshells dropped didn’t explode on impact and lie buried all around the area. Tourists are advised to stick to the paths cleared of projectiles, but with 250,000 hidden booby-traps still buried, accidents still happen weekly.

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Perhaps one day, people will be able to access this mystic place more easily, and discover the legacy of an ancient civilization.

44 Comments for "The Mysterious Plain of Jars"

Uncle B says on March 8th, 2010 at 8:29 pm:

A story within a story! Proaganda technique or did the Americans wilfully destry and for what reasons? Tell all, not just part? Shy? Truth will out and set you free, mee too! Peace, Love.

Donald B. MacGowan says on April 21st, 2010 at 7:20 am:

Quote: “Made of sedimentary rock, like sandstone or granite…”

Uh, not to be nit-picky, but it’s late and I’m cranky. Granite is NOT a sedimentary rock…it is an intrusive igneous rock.

But what a fascinating place…


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