More than 100 giant stone jars believed to have been used for funerary rituals thousands of years ago have been rediscovered in ancient locations in forests, on slopes and along ridges in remote central Laos.
The carved stone pitchers are scattered over miles of rough, tiger-infested Xiangkhouang Province, about 320 kilometers north of Laos – the capital of Vientiane in South Asia. They have been called "vessels of the dead" by researchers.
Several human burials have been found at some of these locations in Laos, which are believed to be about 2,500 years old glasses. [In Photos: Exploring the Mysterious Plain of Jars Site]
An expedition of archaeologists from Laos and Australia visited the Xiangkhouang region in February and March of this year to document known vessel locations and to search for new sites and quarries.
New finds show that the mysterious culture that made the stone glasses was geographically more widespread than previously thought, said Louise Shewan, an archaeologist at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, and one of the expedition leaders.
The largest and most famous pitcher facility is the famous Plain of Jars, which is located in a relatively open area near the town of P honsavan. This site contains about 400 carved stone glasses, some of which are 3m high and over 9,000kg. The first archaeological survey was conducted in the 1930s.
But that said Shewan The majority of the vessels usually contained fewer than 60 carved stone vessels and were located in wooded and mountainous areas that surround the level of the vessels and extend over thousands of square miles.
Ancient stone vessels
Shewan shared this with Live Science The search for new vessel sites led the expedition into "extremely rough, wooded terrain" as researchers searched for ancient relics reported by locals to war bombs, she said. US fighters dropped an estimated 270 million cluster bombs on Laos during the war. The Laos government agency, which oversees clearance work, reports that more than 80 million unexploded bombs scattered across the country are forested and mountainous areas. “/>
Although the region is best known for the pitchers in the jugs' level, most of the old pitcher locations are in heavily wooded and mountainous areas.
Credit: "Level of Pitchers" Archaeological Project  The recent expedition has not only accurately mapped many of the sites reported in the Xiangkhouang area, but also found 15 new glass locations with a total of 137 ancient stone glasses.
Shewan said the newly discovered glasses resembled those found at the level of the glasses, but some differed in the type of stone they were made from, their shape and the way the edges of the glasses were made were formed.
Local legends include a story that the giant stone boxes were made by giants who used the vessels to brew rice beer to celebrate a victory in the war.
Archaeologists, however, believe that at least some of them are carved. Steins were used to hold bodies for a while before their bones were cleansed and buried. [Top 10 Weird Ways We Deal with the Dead]
Although remnants of burdensome human burials have been found in some places, archaeologists are not sure whether the jars were made for burial purposes or whether the burials were later performed.
Excavations in 2016 revealed that some of the stone pots were surrounded by human-bone-filled pits and tombs covered with large carved stone slabs. These seem to have been used to mark the gravesites.
The latest expedition also found buried slices and other artifacts. Underneath were several beautifully carved stone slabs decorated on one side with concentric circles, human figures, and animals. Strangely, the stone discs were always buried with the carved side down.
"Decorative carving is relatively rare at the vascular sites, and we do not know why some discs have animal pictures and other geometric motifs," said Expedition co Dougald O'Rilly, an archeologist at the Australian National University in Canberra in a statement:
The excavations around some of the stone boxes also revealed decorative ceramics, glass beads, iron tools and decorative discs in the ears and spindles for fabric making. The researchers also discovered several miniature pottery vessels, which looked just like the huge stone vessels and were buried with the dead.
Scientists will now use the data and photos of the new vascular discoveries to reconstruct the virtual reality sites at Monash University; Then archaeologists around the world can use the VR to explore the sites in detail.
Originally published on Live Science .