Explained: How ancient megalithic jars connect Assam with Laos and Indonesia

What is the News?

The discovery of a number of megalithic stone jars in Assam’s Dima Hasao district has brought to focus possible links between India’s Northeast and Southeast Asia, dating back to the second millennium BC.

About the Megalithic Stone Jars in Assam
Source: Indian Express

Megalithic Stone Jars were first sighted in Assam in 1929 by British civil servants James Philip Mills and John Henry Hutton. They recorded its presence in six sites in Dima Hasao district, Assam.

These discoveries were followed up only in 2014 when a study was again undertaken. The study discovered two more sites in 2016 and six more in 2020.

For instance, at one site, Nuchubunglo, as many as 546 stone jars were found. This is arguably the largest stone jar site in the world.

What is the significance of these discoveries?

Link Between India’s Northeast and Southeast Asia: The study said that links can be drawn between Stone Jars found in Assam and Jars found in Laos and Indonesia. There is no reported parallel anywhere else in India apart from the northeast.

Hence, this points to the fact that once upon a time a group of people having similar kinds of cultural practices occupied the same geography between Laos and Northeast India.

Link to Mortuary Practices: In Laos, there was a “strong association” between the stone jars and mortuary practices, with human skeletal remains found inside and buried around the jars. In Indonesia, the function of the jars remains unconfirmed, although some scholars suggest a similar mortuary role.

Similarly, the study has suggested that the jars found in Assam were also associated with mortuary rituals. They referred to the practices of ancestral bone repositories of tribes like Mikir, Sakchips, Hangkals, Kuki, Khasi and Synteng and evidence of cremated bone fragments placed in one of the jars.

This study calls for more research to understand the “likely cultural relationship” between Assam and Laos and Indonesia, the only two other sites where similar jars have been found.

Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: How ancient megalithic jars connect Assam with Laos and Indonesia” published in Indian Express on 12th April 2022.

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