The Plain of Jars

In Northern Laos, on the Xiangkhoang Plateau, one can behold the Plain of Jars, which appears to be a prehistoric cemetery. In 1930, archeologist Madeleine Colani published her conclusion that the jars were coffins, based on her discovery of human remains in some of them, plus personal artifacts that might be buried with a body.

Interestingly, some of the jars are massive, suggesting that the occupant was either important or was wealthy. Many clusters of jars are found, implying that those jars are associated with a specific tribe or perhaps a large family. A few jars have stone lids on them. Probably all of the jars once had lids to protect the body and his or her things from weather, thieves, and to slow decay.

Laos was used by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) as a bypass route (outside of the Ho Chi Minh Trail) into South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The NVA also supported the Pathet Lao communist insurgency in the area of the Plain of Jars. There, they were subjected to repeated bombing by the U.S. Air Force, and many unexploded anti-personnel bombs remain in the area today, always a threat to the local population and to tourists.

Think for a moment how and why burials are conducted in the Western world. It is an admixture of survivors honoring someone, the ritual of saying goodbye to him or her, with the functional need of removing the body. Likely, those things also applied to the persons placed in the jars. In both the prehistoric and in the modern burials, some number of those who were honored created a sham. Those jars hold the remains of someone who had the means (wealth, power, influence) to honor themselves. The other jars may have held the remains of someone who had character.

Web search Proverbs 27:19. This Biblical verse speaks of a person’s character. The heart is symbolic of our character, our soul. Each person’s life, what was done selflessly during that human life, reflects who that person was as a member of humankind. Web search Ephesians 5:13. The verse tells how “the truth will out.” The people who provided jars for those with character saw the true value in the person that they honored.

Character must be built. It does not come naturally to us. The Christian Bible contains a verse with the words of Jesus, the Christ, teaching us to build our house (ourselves) upon a solid rock. Long before Jesus said that, the prophet Joshua said that we should get our act together about who we are and why we are here. In Joshua 1:9, the prophet assured us that we are not alone.