Blogger Reena Ganga from the excellent Wanderplex recently featured the Plain of Jars, an area of Laos’ Xieng Khouang plateau scattered with mysterious megalithic jars dating to around 500 BC. More than 90 sites containing between one and 400 jars, each hewn out of solid rock, have been discovered, though their exact purpose remains a mystery.
Unexploded ordnance (UXO) from the Vietnam War dictates that only one jar site near the city of Phonsavan, known as Site 1, is open to visitors. As a result, many sites have remained untouched for decades – off limits to both souvenir hunters and those who would seek to ensure their long term survival.
UNESCO is involved in an ongoing project to make the Plain of Jars more accessible to tourists while simultaneously opening up the land to farmers in a bid to boost the local economy. Farming accounts for 75 per cent of employment in Laos and 30 per cent of GDP. Meanwhile, 300 people are killed or injured by unexploded ordnance each year in Laos.
The precise purpose of the enigmatic jars is unclear. Some have suggested they were designed for brewing alcohol. Others, notably French archaeologist Madeline Colani, posited that the jars were used in ancient ceremonies.
We may never know, but meanwhile UNESCO continues to work with authorities in Laos to clear safe pathways through the Plain of Jars in a bid to draw tourists and add the enigma to the World Heritage List. Read more at Wanderplex.
Read more – click here to see why the Plain of Jars remains so dangerous to locals and tourists alike.