When I say I’m going to Laos, many people have intoned a long aspirated “Oh” that borderes on a “Wow” and diminuendoes into a kind of verbal question mark. “You’re going to Thailand?” a few people asked. “Isn’t Laos the country from Vietnam?” someone said, meaning the war Vietnam, not the country Vietnam.The MMAP team will be studying caves in the World Heritage site of Luang Prabang in the heart of the middle Mekong River basin, in northern Laos. China is to the north, Vietnam to the north and east, and Thailand to the south and west. As an area at the core of Southeast Asia, yet one that is virtually an archaeological terra incognita, northern Laos can provide some missing puzzle-pieces in several theories on how settled societies developed in the region.