May 28, 2022

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Researchers solve more of the mystery of Laos megalithic jars

Graphic: Dr Shewan and collaborators present new radiocarbon success for site use and also introduce geochronological data identifying the most likely quarry source for just one of the biggest megalithic web sites.
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Credit rating: Basic of Jars Archaeological Investigation Venture

New analysis conducted at the UNESCO Environment Heritage detailed ‘Plain of Jars’ in Laos has proven the stone jars had been likely positioned in their last resting situation from as early as 1240 to 660 BCE.

Sediment samples from beneath stone jars from two of the more than 120 recorded megalithic web-sites ended up obtained by a staff led Dr Louise Shewan from the University of Melbourne, Affiliate Professor Dougald O’Reilly from the Australian Nationwide College (ANU) and Dr Thonglith Luangkoth from the Lao Department of Heritage.

The samples had been analysed making use of a system identified as Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) to identify when sediment grains had been past exposed to daylight.

“With these new info and radiocarbon dates acquired for skeletal material and charcoal from other burial contexts, we now know that these sites have maintained enduring ritual importance from the interval of their initial jar placement into historic times,” Dr Shewan reported.

The megalithic jar web-sites in Northern Laos comprise 1 to three-metre-tall carved stone jars, weighing up to 20 tonnes, dotted across the landscape, showing by yourself or in teams of up to quite a few hundred.

Dr Shewan and her team accomplished their most new excavations in March 2020, revisiting Web page 1 (Ban Hai Hin), and arriving back again in Australia just ahead of global pandemic intercontinental boarder closures.

Web-site 1 revealed more burials put all over the jars and confirmed earlier observations that the exotic boulders dispersed across the website are markers for ceramic burial jars buried beneath.

Revealed currently in PLOS 1, Dr Shewan and collaborators existing new radiocarbon results for website use and also introduce geochronological facts determining the probably quarry resource for one of the greatest megalithic web pages.

Whilst geologists have applied detrital zircon U-Pb courting for quite a few a long time, this methodology has a short while ago been utilised to build the provenance of ceramic and stone sources in archaeological contexts which include Stonehenge.

Conducted at ANU by Associate Professor Richard Armstrong, the U-Pb zircon ages measured in jar samples from Internet site 1 ended up in contrast to probable resource substance, which includes a sandstone outcrop and an incomplete jar from a presumed quarry found some 8km away. The zircon age distributions uncovered very comparable provenance suggesting that this outcrop was the most likely resource of the materials applied for the generation of jars at the web site.

“How the jars ended up moved from the quarry to the internet site, having said that, stays a mystery,” Affiliate Professor O’Reilly claimed.

The up coming challenge for the researchers is to obtain even more samples from other web-sites and from across the geographic expanse of this megalithic lifestyle to have an understanding of additional about these enigmatic sites and the period above which they were established.

Dr Shewan said this is not an specially easy process offered the comprehensive unexploded ordnance (UXO) contamination in the area where by considerably less than 10 for every cent of the known jar web-sites have been cleared.

“We be expecting that this sophisticated system will eventually support us share extra insights into what is just one of Southeast Asia’s most mysterious archaeological cultures.”

The whole team of scientists involves La Trobe College, James Cook College, University of Gloucestershire and intercontinental collaborators from Laos, New Zealand and Hong Kong.&#13

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