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Department of the History of Art and Archaeology

Ms Lia Genovese

BA, Social Sciences and Economics (UK), ACMA (Associate Chartered Management Accountant, UK), MA, History of Art (SOAS, UK - Distinction), PhD student (SOAS, Art & Archaeology)


Rosalia Genovese
Ms Lia Genovese
Email address:
Thesis title:
Redefining the Plain of Jars of Laos - Beyond Madeleine Colani
Year of Study:
Internal Supervisors


As well as finance assignments in the USA and Hungary, I have travelled extensively, with the last seven years being spent in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, volunteering and carrying out preliminary research for my PhD topic.These are some of my main interests: Plain of Jars; Iron Age ethnography and historiography of northeast Laos; Iron Age burial customs in southeast Asia; French Indochina administration in Laos; prehistoric regional links.Travelling, music of the world, archaeology, comparative religion, sports, photography, films.

PhD Research

Little is known about the megalithic jars of Xieng Khouang Province in Laos, or indeed their very purpose, whether for burial, ceremonial or commemorative use. Madeleine Colani (1866-1943), a French archaeologist, remains the only researcher to have enjoyed unfettered access to the Plain of Jars. She documented her findings in two lavish volumes published in French in 1935. In 1964-73, the Second Indochina War followed independence from France, with CIA-backed Royal Lao government forces battling with Viet Minh-backed Pathet Lao communist forces. Laos has been devastated by the conflict and by the millions of unexploded ordnances (UXO), remnants of war which continue to kill and maim decades after the end of the conflict. These invisible and silent UXO have also prevented field archaeology at the Plain of Jars. Though Laos has achieved a measure of stability through the one-party system which has ruled the country since 1975, field archaeology resumed only in the early 1990s. In my fieldwork I have surveyed over 50 of the 81 jar sites known to date, documenting the dramatic change that the stone artefacts are undergoing as a result of erosion but also rapid urban expansion. In my thesis I will detail early visitors to the Plain of Jars and will examine the spatial distribution of sites and jar density, in relation to quarries and other physical features. I will also discuss the carving process and will offer my analysis and suggested sequence.  

PhD Publications

  • Genovese, L. 2013. ‘The Stone Jars of north Laos - Different by Design’, The First SEAMEO-SPAFA International Conference on Southeast Asian Archaeology, Burapha University, Chonburi, Thailand, 7-10 May 2013
  • Genovese, L. 2013. ‘The Plain of Jars of Laos’, Presentation at the APSARA Authority, Siem Reap, Cambodia, 2 April 2013
  • Genovese, L. 2013. ‘Mystery and Diversity at the Plain of Jars of Laos’, Presentation at the INTG, Alliance Française, Chiang Mai, Thailand, 12 March 2013
  • Genovese, L. 2013. 'The Plain of Jars of Laos - in the footsteps of Madeleine Colani', in Appendices of the 2013 expanded DatAsia Press edition of Sydney J. LeGendre's Land of the White Parasols and the Million Elephants - A Journey Through the Jungles of Indo-China, originally published by Dodd, Mead and Company, New York, in 1936
  • Genovese, L. 2012. 'The Plain of Jars of Laos: not set in Stone', XIV Conference of the European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists (EurASEAA), Dublin, Ireland, 18-21 September 2012
  • Genovese, L. 2012. ‘The Plain of Jars: Mysterious and Imperilled’, online article in the website of the Global Heritage Fund, http://ghn.globalheritagefund.com/uploads/documents/document_2006.pdf
  • Genovese, L. 2011. ‘The Vanishing Heritage of the Plain of Jars in Laos’, Asia Research Institute Conference, National University of Singapore, 11-15 July 2011
  • Genovese, L. 2011. 'Madeleine Colani and the Deprat Scandal at the Geological Survey of Indochina', Journal of the Siam Society, Bangkok, Thailand, vol. 99, pp269-290, http://www.siam-society.org/OJS/index.php/JSS/article/view/285/JSS_099_0q_Genovese_MadeleineColaniAndDepratScandal.pdf
  • Genovese, L. 2009. ‘Madeleine Colani, the Plain of Jars of Laos and Sa Huỳnh’, Conference paper on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the discovery of Sa Huỳnh (100 Năm Phát Hiện Và Nghiên Cứu Văn Hoá Sa Huỳnh), Quẚng Ngāi, Central Vietnam, 22-24 July 2009
  • Genovese, L. 2008. Translation and analysis of ‘Proceedings (Extract) of XII International Congress of Orientalists, Rome, October 1899’, The British Library, International Dunhuang Project (IDP), http://idp.bl.uk/downloads/Orientalists.pdf     

PhD Conferences

  • 2010 - 30-31 March, SOAS Research Students' Society's conference (will present paper).
  • 2010 - 10 June, SEA Archaeology Workshop, Oxford (planning to present paper).
  • 2010 - 27/9-01/10, 13th EurASEAA, Berlin (planning to present paper).


  • Associate member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants of the UK (CIMA). 
  • SOAS alumna.