Giant, mysterious megalithic jars were unearthed in northeastern India

The stone jars range from 1 to 3 meters (about 3.2 to 9.8 feet) in height, according to study co-author Nicholas Skopal, a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University in Canberra.

Some of the jars feature decorative carvings, while others are plain, he said. Around 65 jars have been discovered so far, but many more could be lurking underground, according to Skopal.

Researchers have yet to unravel the mystery of when these jars were made and which civilization used them, he said.

The British discovered a handful of sites in the region with the same stone vessels in the 1920s, and before the Skopal excavation in 2020, there were seven known sites. His team was analyzing jars found at three of the locations.

While exploring the surrounding areas, they came across four previously unknown sites with partially exposed jars, which was a pleasant surprise, Skopal said.

“By getting them out, inspecting them and documenting them properly, the government and universities can much better manage their heritage and preserve these jars for future generations,” Skopal said.

A history of looters

By the time the investigative team found the exposed jars, most of their contents were gone, Skopal said.

There are oral historical accounts of the Naga, local villagers, pulling beads and other items from the jars, he said. While it is not known precisely when the beads were removed, as some of the locals still have them as family heirlooms, it is likely that the jars were unearthed not too long ago, Skopal added.

“In one of the villages we are staying in, one of the old ladies showed me (some jewelry) that they had taken out of the jar,” she said.

Similar jars have been discovered in Laos, and researchers have been lucky to find jars that were still intact with artifacts such as beads and human remains inside, Skopal said. He hopes his team will eventually find unopened jars at the new sites in Assam to study the culture from which they originated.

“Some of the buried ones could have things inside, but we haven’t dug up yet,” he said.

an unsolved mystery

It’s hard to date when these jars were first created, so researchers can’t yet determine which civilization crafted the stone jars, Skopal said.

The first estimates date the artifacts to 400 BC. C. or earlier, according to the study’s lead author, Tilok Thakuria, an assistant professor in the Department of History and Archeology at North-Eastern Hill University’s Tura campus in Meghalaya, India.

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Pinning down the time period in which these jars were created is the team’s next priority, Skopal said.

To determine when the artifacts were buried, his team plans to use optically stimulated luminescence, called OSL. This is a dating method where you take a sediment sample from directly under the jar and determine when light last hit that sample, Skopal said.

The date would correspond to when the jars were buried, giving researchers a much better idea of ​​when the jars were made.

Digging up unopened jars will also be of great help in dating the stone pieces, according to Thakuria.

“We need to have an excavation plan in Assam to recover the material culture and reconstruct the social and cultural behavior of these groups of people,” he said.

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