Stoneware kilns in Southern Laos

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STONEWARE KILNS IN SOUTHERN LAOS

Although the exact site has not yet been determined, the southern reach of the Middle Mekong region can now be proposed as the likely place of production for jars represented in the Hauge Collection by eight vessels.

These jars share technical traits with those produced in kilns elsewhere in the region, notably the scars on the flat base of straight, parallel lines left by the twisted cord used to sever the base from the wheelhead. (On these jars, the lines curved slightly, as if the wheel were not fully stopped.) The decoration on the jars features tiers of applied clay ridges on the shoulder and sometimes near the foot as well. On one jar, these ridges have been incised to create a ropelike appearance. On some, the ridges are combined with bands of straight and wavy combing lines. Two knobs sit on the shoulder close to the neck. (The placement of the decoration follows the pattern of large Angkor period jars.) The Hauge jars bear variations of wood ash-and-clay or iron glaze. Jars of related technique and design were produced at kilns along the Songkhram River, but on average, they are smaller than this group, and their glazes are less accomplished (Toyama 1999). This group of jars probably represents a more recent phase of production.

The Hauges bought their jars in Saigon, where dealers identified them as "Cham." Although at the time that designation indicated that the jars were made in one of the Cham kingdoms in Central Vietnam, it may actually mean no more than that they had supplied to the Saigon dealers from sources in that region. It is likely that they were traded out of highland communities. Jars of this type are in the collections of provincial museums in the northern Central Highlands provinces of Kon Tum and Gia Rai. Until collected by the museums, they had been used in highland communities for brewing rice beer. They are also distributed in the highland areas of northeastern Cambodia and southern Laos, and have been found across the Mekong River in Northeast Thailand.

Potters in Ban Tha Hin, Attapeu province, southern Laos, now make jars of this type, although they say the jars are new to their repertory (Shippen 2005).