Structural man-made marvels can be found all over the world. Visit any city or landmark, and you’ll see a plethora of architecture that’s as fascinating as it is impressive.
Sometimes, though, the origin of these epic creations is shrouded in mystery. No one is quite sure who the original creators were. This adds an element of secrecy that excites both historians and visitors.
The Xieng Khouang province in Laos is the site of some of the most intriguing and mysterious artifacts ever found. The plot of land is littered with enormous stone jars—and the origin of these massive structures has left historians scratching their heads.
All over the world, you can find amazing feats of architecture. The origins of many of them are known, but others are still shrouded in mystery. One of the most fascinating collections of inexplicable structures is located in the Xieng Khouang province in Laos. It’s called the Plain of Jars, and people from all over the world travel to visit this enigmatic plot of land.
From a distance, the Plain of Jars appears to be an ordinary field strewn with large boulders and rock formations. Upon closer inspection, however, you realize that the “rocks” are actually hundreds of stone jars created by a prehistoric southeast Asian culture of which very little is known.
The Plain of Jars was first studied by a French archaeologist named Madeline Colani in the 1930s. She initially thought that the jars were scattered among the land in no logical formation, but soon she realized that they were all actually placed in prominent spots that had commanding views of the surrounding land.
Each pot was created from one single slab of stone. Some of them were smooth and level and Colani could tell that a lot of time was put into making such perfect formations, while others were crudely built with sharp edges and uneven openings.
Colani also discovered a large assortment of artifacts both in and around many of the jars. She found bronze and iron tools, cowry shells, and glass beads. Whoever it was that built these jars clearly had a strong understanding of architecture.
At one of the larger sites, Colani stumbled upon a cave containing human bones and ashes. This discovery led her to believe that the Plain of Jars was a burial site where people laid their deceased friends and family members to rest. Colani knew that many southeast Asian cultures would cremate the bodies of nobles and then place their ashes and expensive belongings in jars. The Plain of Jars could have very well been a massive collection of funerary urns.
Similar sites in northern India and Vietnam have led many archaeologists to believe that whoever built the Plain of Jars traded with many neighboring areas. The Laotian Highlands is rich in salt, after all, and salt was a valuable resource during ancient times.
The widely accepted belief is that this ancient culture traded upon caravan routes, and they exchanged salt for items like beads, cowry shells, and other luxury goods with the merchants and traders in nearby villages.
Unfortunately, thorough exploration of the Plain of Jars was made difficult after the Vietnam War. From 1964 to 1973, American planes hammered Laos with over two million tons of bombs and munitions. Because of this, the area is blanketed with live explosives, and thousands of deaths a year occur because of accidental detonation by farmers and locals.
The Plain of Jars represents the work of an advanced prehistoric culture that dates back nearly 2,000 years. There is plenty more research that needs to be done to solve the mysterious questions surrounding who these people were, but until then, the Plain of Jars remains one of the most compelling places in the world to visit.
It’s unfortunate that the Plain of Jars is such a dangerous place to visit due to the number of live explosives that still litter the area. Hopefully, historians can eventually find some clues as to who these architects were and why they built such magnificently mysterious jars.
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