The Sandstone Quarry at Kaeng Haw Jao: Source for the Temple Sites at Vat Phou, Champasak Laos

Daniel R. Davenport1, Thonglith Luangkhoth2, Amphon Sengphachanh3

1GeoHeritageLaos, Laos

2Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, Laos

3Vat Phou Heritage Office, Laos

Large, open area excavations and photogrammetry have revealed a sprawling sandstone quarry at Kaeng Haw Jao, 28 km northwest of the World Heritage temple complex of Vat Phou, in Champasak, Laos. This quarry, with its hundreds of residual sandstone blocks, includes dozens of window and door balusters that were all cut in situ. These have been directly linked to the stones used to build Vat Phou and other Hindu temples from the 11th to 13th centuries C.E. From 2019, Geo Heritage Laos has worked with the Lao Department of Archaeology, the Vat Phou Heritage Office and local village of Nonsavan, to protect this vital site from imminent destruction, precisely record its archaeology and convert the area into a village-run heritage park. With a strong emphasis on CARE principles, a Heritage Management Plan was prepared that protects the sandstone quarry, an associated sacred site and a canal with its rare evidence for ‘pound locks’, which was likely built to transport the stones to the temples. After an initial development phase has established infrastructure and training, this company-government-village partnership will be entirely run by local people. Sustained by proceeds from park entry fees and small concessions, the preserve will not only protect a vital piece of Lao heritage but also provide a modest income for villagers and sustain the continued harvesting of non-timber forest products, which has long been a vital local resource.