Jug Valley in Laos and traces of battles.
The Valley of Jugs is a group of unique sites that hold unusual historical and archaeological monuments – huge stone jugs. These mysterious sites are located in the province of Xiengkhuang, in Laos. Scattered among the dense tropical flora are thousands of giant stone vessels. The jars range in size from 0.5 to 3 meters and the largest weigh up to 6 tons. Most of the giant stone pots have a cylindrical shape, but oval and rectangular jars are also found. Next to the unusual vessels they found round discs, presumably used as lids. These pots were made of granite, sandstone, rock and calcined coral. Scientists estimate that the stone bowls are between 1,500 and 2,000 years old.
The area of the valley includes more than 60 sites on which groups of giant vessels are located. All the sites are stretched along one line, which may be evidence that there used to be an ancient trade route that was served by the jug sites. Phongsawang Town has the largest concentration of jars, a place called “the First Site,” where there are about 250 vessels of various sizes.
There are many theories and speculations as to who and for what purpose these peculiar vessels were created. Scientists think these jugs were used by an ancient people from Southeast Asia whose culture and customs are still unknown. Historians and anthropologists suggest that these huge jugs may have been funerary urns used for funeral rites. Some say they were used to store food, others say the jars were used to collect rainwater for trading caravans. Legend has it that these giant jugs were used as common utensils by the giants who once lived here. Well, the version of the locals say that the megalith jugs were used to make and store rice wine. No matter how many versions and theories have been put forward, the Valley of Jugs undoubtedly remains an unsolved mystery.
The study of the jugs poses more mysteries for historians than other cultural monuments in the same region, for a number of reasons. The first of these is the dispersion of the pitchers. There are three main sites in which a multitude of jugs are collected in a relatively small area. At the same time, at more than 400 locations, individual clumps are at a considerable distance from each other. All of the blocks are several meters in size and weigh more than a ton. Some jugs stand upright, while others are bent on their side.
Some of the jars were covered with stone lids. In addition, in some cases, miniature statues of Buddha were found inside the jars. Whatever the ancient history of these monuments, it is known that they also experienced turbulent events in the recent past. During the Laotian Civil War, also known as the “Secret War,” U.S. troops conducted massive bombing raids in the region, leaving behind many unexploded shells. Because of the potential danger of excavation, research in Siangkhuang Province has become limited.
And clearing the area of shells is an important prerequisite for the possibility of exploring and developing tourism in the area. At the moment, there are a large number of shells ready to detonate at any moment, hence most of the valley is inaccessible to visitors. Lao authorities are putting all their efforts to clear the Valley of Jars of shells and to ensure safe movement through the area. They are assisted in this by various NGOs who are fascinated by the beauty of ancient monuments and are willing to fight to keep these valuable historical sites open to the public. To date, only a limited number of pitcher sites are open to the public, so it is very difficult to fully explore the valleys. Now only three sites are accessible to tourists, which have been completely cleared of shells.
An ancient legend says that in the distant past land of Laos inhabited the giants who drank from these jugs. However, similar archaeological monuments were found not only in Laos, but also on the territory of Thailand and India. It is noteworthy that the sites with the jugs line up in a straight line, suggesting that they may once have been placed along the trade route and served as water reservoirs.
Trees sprouted through some of the jugs long ago.
Traveling through the Valley of the Jugs, you can come across villages like this:
Huge shells left over from the war are here in full use for subsistence use – they serve both as supports for a shed and instead of a fence, and onions are planted in them.
Who knows, maybe the ancient jugs are also shells, but of some unknown prehistoric war of the civilizations of the gods. Well, statues of Buddhas could have been put there in later times as well. They planted bows in the shells.
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Maybe it’s not such a mystery. Surely we’re about to read a perfectly reasonable version of it all, like the Balls of Champa Island or the Balls of the Gods. And even the Living Stones can be not living at all, but I want to see something unusual and mysterious
So, what is this theme with the pitchers.
The Valley of Jugs is a group of unique sites containing unusual historical and archaeological monuments – huge stone jugs. These mysterious sites are located in the province of Xiengkhuang, in Laos. Scattered among the dense tropical flora are thousands of giant stone vessels. The jars range in size from 0.5 to 3 meters and the largest weigh up to 6,000 kg. Most of the giant stone pots have a cylindrical shape, but oval and rectangular jars are also found. Next to the unusual vessels were found round discs, presumably used as lids. These pots were made of granite, sandstone, rock and calcined coral. Scientists estimate that the age of the stone bowls is 1500-2000 years.
Interesting? Let’s look into it more …
Until now, scientists can not determine the age of these creations of human hands. Or maybe not human. Huge vessels are scattered over a large area. It is as if the giants were going on a picnic and had a lot of fun. They are believed to be about 2,000 years old, but no one knows for sure. Nor do they know who created them or why. What adds even more mystery is that the rock, of which the jugs are made, is nowhere to be found. And dragging 6-ton artifacts from afar through the mountainous terrain is not a very joyful activity.
There are three large sites in the vicinity of Phongsavan. Getting to them is not easy. Tuk-tuk drivers will offer their services, but charge sky-high prices. The alternative is a motorcycle. If you decide to do this, remember that it is a long and difficult journey.
The mysterious Valley of jars (Plain of jars) is located in Laos near the town of Phongsavan on the plateau of Xiengkhuang Province. Scientists have found that the period when the jars originated dates back to 500 BC. – 500 BC (Iron Age). So far, more than 90 locations of jugs have been found in the valley, each ranging in size from 1 to 392 pieces. In diameter, the vessels range in size from 1 to 3 meters, are carved from rock and have a cylindrical shape. Many of the jars have a rim around the opening, which suggests that they had lids. Teeth, glass beads, fragments of ceramic stone and bronze items and bone tissue have been found inside and around the megalithic jars. There are many different versions about the origin of the enigmatic Jug Valley, the most important I will list below.
VERSION 1: VELICANS This is not a version but rather a legend. According to one Laotian legend, long time ago there were huge giants in this valley and the jugs belonged to them. Another legend says that the jars were made by King Khung Cheung after he defeated his enemies. They were used to make a lot of lao lao rice wine to celebrate the victory.
VERSION 2: THE TRADE PATH Some sources mention that similar stone jars have also been found in countries such as India and Indonesia. Their locations coincide with the trade routes. Because of this circumstance, there is a hypothesis that the jugs were made for traders from different countries. During the monsoon, rainwater was poured into the stone vessels, and travelers and animals could quench their thirst. The beads and other objects they found may well have served as offerings to the gods, so that rain came down and filled the jars with water.
VERSION 3: GRAINS An interesting fact is that a cave was found near location #1, in which two artificial holes were created. There are traces of soot preserved inside. It is assumed that this cave served as a crematorium and the holes were chimneys. The condition of the objects and the remains found in the jars indicate signs of cremation, while those around the jars indicate burial without incineration. There are several interpretations in the explanations of this fact.
One theory. The bodies of the upper classes may have been cremated so that their souls would go to heaven, while the commoners were buried so that their souls would be servants of the earth.
Another version. A variant is that the body of the deceased was placed in a jug, and after some time, when the soul passed away, it was cremated and then buried again.
A third interpretation. It is likely that first one person was buried in the jug, and over the years relatives of the deceased were buried around the vessel.
The first archaeological excavations were conducted by French archaeologist Madeleine Colan in the 1930s, she believes that the giant structures were created by a very ancient civilization and were used for funeral rituals as vessels for the storage of ashes. Madeleine also found a cave with burials and ashes in the vicinity of the valley. Another version is that the jars were used to store food and various substances.
The Present State of the Valley of Jugs During the Secret War (1964-1973), U.S. bombs were detonating in this region of Laos. The area of Xianghuang Province is still overflowing with millions of unexploded mines. Not only were many of the jars damaged and destroyed by the bombing, but access to most of the locations of the vessels is still limited and extremely dangerous. Cleaning out the shells is not a cheap process for poor Lao PDR. As such, the country is calling for the Jug Valley to be given “UNESCO World Heritage” status in order to attract outside funding to clear the surrounding areas of mines. As of now (April 2015), only seven pitcher locations are considered safe: the most visited Nos. 1, 2, and 3 and less popular Nos. 16, 23, 25, and 52.
Despite the fact that more than 400 pitcher sites were found, only three sites are open to tourists. The biggest one is located near the town of Phongsawang and has 250 stone vessels and site No.1.
Despite its remote location, the Valley of Jugs was still badly affected by the Vietnam War. Between the 1960s and 1970s, a large number of bombs were dropped in Laos. Since that battle, the stone jars have kept their scars in the form of cracks in the walls and huge craters between them.
Undoubtedly, the plain of jars would attract many more tourists if it were not for the fact that more than 30 percent of the dropped bombs have yet to explode and remain lost and scattered throughout the valley. According to researchers, approximately 250,000 hidden booby traps are still in Laos, and tragic incidents related to them are reported almost weekly.
Perhaps someday it will be possible to unravel the mystery of the Vessel Plain, but for now, be careful when traveling to Laos!
The authorities are considering granting the Valley of Jugglers UNESCO World Heritage status. The difficulty with the designation is that Siangkhuang was bombed by the U.S. Air Force during the Secret War, in the 1970s. This is the reason why much of this amazing valley is inaccessible to tourists.
During the bombing, not only were the jugs damaged, but also the field itself, which today has many deep sinkholes. Collectors have long since removed all the smaller jugs from the hills. But in spite of this fact, there are still hundreds of specimens, which are arranged in five groups. Tourists visit the most accessible place. It is called Thong Hai Hin. It is worth noting that this is where the largest of all the pitchers is located.
There are over 4,000 pitchers in total on the Siangkhuang Plateau, but officially 3 sites are considered a tourist area :
- The first one is 10km southwest of Phongsavan, it is the largest, there are 250 pitchers, and the weight of the largest one is 3.7 tons. And there is also a cave in which the legend of the giants fired these same pitchers. Entrance is paid, I think the ticket costs about 10,000 kip.
- The second site is located 15 km from the city, in the hills near the village of Xiengdi, there are about 150 pitchers.
- The latter is located a little further than the second, about 27 kilometers from Phongsavan.
On the numerous posters in the tour agencies in Luang Prabang are pictures of different minivans and VIP buses, but it turned out that there is only one bus per day from the bus station. The ticket price for the bus in the travel agencies was 120,000 kip, and it was sold to us under the guise of a ticket for the VIP BUS. 90,000 kip at the bus station and it was a regular bus, so you should buy a ticket in advance, travel time is about 8 hours with a couple of stops.
A few more mysteries scattered in different corners of our planet: here for example Moray Terraces (Cusco Moray), and here is the famous Eye of the Sahara or Rishat structure. Another question was raised about the Colosseum, which does not exist? and the Thirteen Towers of Chankillo.