HomeDrone allows new view of Laos’s bomb-riddled Plain of Jars

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Aerial footage of Laos’s Plain of Jars seen as important to help clear area of thousands of unexploded bombs dropped on the country during the Vietnam War
By Hugh Morris

One of the world’s most mysterious archaeological sites has been seen in a new light thanks to advances in drone technology.

The Plain of Jars in Laos is an spread of valleys and foothills littered with thousands of stone jars thought to date back to the Iron Age, but the exact function of which is still debated.However, exploration of the region has been limited as the landscape in the Xieng Khouang province remains riddled with unexploded bombs dropped on the country by the Americans during the Vietnam War.

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Targeting North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao communist forces, the US Air Force dropped more bombs on Laos between 1964 and 1973 then it did during the entire Second World War. It is estimated nearly a third of the two million tonnes dropped remain a threat as they did not detonate.Today, as the Laos government and Unesco work towards clearing the region of bombs and protecting and restoring the jars, new aerial footage of the plains has been shot by drone, highlighting the clusters of archaeological sites as well as the bomb craters caused by the American bombardment.

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It is also thought some of the jars were damaged by bombs.The footage above was captured with a Parrot Bebop drone, flying over various sites of the region. Clear paths that visitors must keep to can be seen in the film.

The publisher of the footage, Youtube user seaarch, said drones will play an important role in safely surveying areas that have not yet been cleared of explosives.

Of the stone jars, believed to be involved in ancient burial practises, Unesco said: “The artifacts… constitute an exceptional collection for the study of the late prehistory of mainland Southeast Aisa.

“The jars’ striking and enigmatic presence has given to the Xieng Khouang Plateau the name The Plain of Jars; little is yet known for certain about the people and culture which produced them.”The Lao PDR government has expressed interest in recommending that the site become a Unesco world heritage site.Visiting for the Telegraph in 2004, Sebastian Berger said of the region: “Ringed by mountains, the plateau is a magnificent place to spend eternity.

“The containers are gathered in seemingly haphazard clusters on promontories and levels, some upright, others fallen over. They reveal scant details of their origins.”It was in the 1930s that French archaeologist Madeleine Colani suggested that the jars were associated with ancient burials, while further excavation by Lao and Japanese experts has supported this theory, with human remains found across 90 sites.Explosive-clearing remains a risky focus of heritage and preservation teams, with unexploded bombs still capable of killing today.