Savannakhet discovery shedding light on ancient elephant, mahout life

SAVANNAKHET (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Ancient artefacts found recently in Savannakhet province’s Athsaphon district await analysis as to whether their use was related to elephants and their keepers.

A bell, axes, and other small metal pipes were among some 193 items found buried in agricultural land by the owner during ploughing last July in Vilabouly district.

Elders from the community had deduced the bell had been on the neck of the elephant and identified the axe heads as the tools of mahouts for driving their pachyderm charges.

The small pipes were believed to have served as decorative items and amulets for both mahout and elephant.

Some suggested the items and the elephants they once adorned may have been related to a wife of King Anouvong Maharaj (known locally Nang Lao or Lao Lady), whom he appointed to rule the land of Meuangvang-Angkham in about 1825.

According to an official from the provincial Department of Information, Culture and Tourism, the farmer, a resident of the district’s Chomhad village, found a buried jar and took it home to see what was inside.

The resident carefully collected the various items inside and kept them hidden in his house, not telling anyone about what had happened.

However, during the period the items were in his home various family members fell ill, and according to commonly-held superstition, he decided to take the items back to the place from where they were from and report to the district authority about the finding to hasten their recovery.

The district information, culture and tourism then visited the site of the find to check and secured the jar in its original burial place, pending further consideration by relevant authorities.

Subsequently, a group of provincial officials led by provincial People’s Council President Dr Khampheuy Phanthachone visited the location last weekend and after inspection settled on a plan to have the artefacts relocated to the community temple. Archaeology experts from the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism then met with local officials last week to move forward on the study and conservation of the artefacts.

Finds of historical artefacts shedding light on life in the past have been made in Savannakhet province on several occasions, particularly in northeast districts. Nineteen pottery items were uncovered in Savannakhet province’s Vilabouly district early last year, with experts estimating the haul at about 300 years of age.

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