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May 26, 2017

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Laos' Plain of Jars recreated in virtual reality simulation

SYDNEY--Australian archaeologists announced plans Wednesday to recreate Laos' mysterious Plain of Jars as a three-dimensional virtual reality experience, that could one day see museum visitors walk through remote dig sites.

The Plain of Jars, in Laos' central Xieng Khouang province, is scattered with thousands of stone vessels but scientists have yet to discover their original purpose.

Archaeologists have struggled to access the jar sites, many of which have yet to be cleared of unexploded mines and bombs dropped on the country during the Vietnam War.

But Australian researchers now say that their use of drones which capture 3D images every 10 centimeters would allow them to explore sites like these that cannot be assessed in traditional ways.

"The potential especially for places like Laos where there's a serious UXO (Unexploded Ordnance) problem is that using remote technology to explore and map archaeological sites is incredibly useful," Dougald O'Reilly from the Australian National University's (ANU) school of archaeology told AFP.

"It decreases the danger of working in these places."

Besides deploying drones to capture 3D images, O'Reilly said archaeologists were looking at using multispectral cameras which can capture light from invisible frequencies such as infrared radiation, and airborne laser scanning technology known as lidar to create centimeter-accurate maps.

The data collected by researchers from ANU and Melbourne's Monash University will feed into the virtual visualization of the Plain of Jars landscape, allowing archaeologists to virtually revisit the site as well as re-excavate it.

Such maps could also be used to monitor changes in heritage sites over time.

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