2010 World Monuments Watch
Scattered across 72 different locations along a remote mountain ridge, the Hintang Archaeological Landscape is a collection of prehistoric megalithic sites in northeastern Laos. Hidden throughout the region’s lush jungle vegetation and nearly inaccessible to the outside world are 1,546 upright standing stones, 153 large stone disks, and underground chambers dating back to the Bronze Age. Mysterious yet undoubtedly deliberate, the clusters of stone offer glimpses into an earlier era. Much is still unknown about the area’s prehistoric inhabitants, but the significance of the landscape lies in the potential for cultural, ecological, spiritual, and archaeological discovery. Today, the site remains important sacred ground for the indigenous communities, who engage in rituals and make offerings to Hat Ang, a religious idol thought to be the guardian of the surrounding lands. A recent survey found that approximately one-third of the archaeological site is in a state of disrepair. Natural elements, including wind and water, have eroded the stones as well as the sites surrounding them. Further, man-made threats, including looting, uncontrolled tourism, and some road development, have placed the landscape at risk. Fighting, including the Vietnam War (known locally as the Second Indochina War) during the 1960s, left the area damaged. Unexploded ordnances remain in the area and not only threaten the safety of local inhabitants and visitors, but also hinder conservation efforts.