Megaliths in South and Southeast Asia

1School of Archaeology and Anthropology, Australian National University

2School of Geography, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Melbourne

The megaliths of Southeast and South Asia are a fascinating but oft overlooked aspect of the prehistoric period of the region. The presence of large stone jars and menhirs have been noted from Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Indonesia, Borneo and Northeast India. In recent years these heritage assets have begun to receive the attention they deserve with new research being undertaken in Laos, India and Sulawesi. In Laos the Plain of Jars Archaeological Research Project, a joint Australian-Lao research initiative commenced in 2016, following a lacuna in research mostly due to the extensive unexploded ordnance (UXO) contamination of Laos. The enigmatic megalithic landscape, comprising more than 2500 hollowed, carved stone jars, discs, and boulder markers are spread over more than 120 documented sites, 11 of which were inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage in 2019. Similar jars to those of Laos have been known in Northeast India since the early 20th century and recently renewed efforts to document known sites and discover new sites have been undertaken. Curiously there are very similar menhir sites known from NE India as well and linguistic studies hint at connections between these two disparate areas. The relationship between other jar sites is more opaque. This session will present the most recent findings on these enigmatic prehistoric features in the landscape, and hopefully generate discussion on wider connections and significance of megalithic archaeological sites.



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