Yesterday researchers from the Việt Nam Institute of Archaeology (VIA) and the Việt Nam Academy of Social Sciences reported on their excavation and showcased remarkable artefacts they have collected.
Nguyễn Gia Đối, PhD, vice director of VIA, said they started excavating in late 2014. Technical and financial support from Russia’s Novosibirsk Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography made the project possible. The joint project investigating this site will run until 2019.
“The local people exploited stone from the mountains, exposing the vestige,” he said. “We visited and examined many times. Then we decided to excavate trenches at the Gò Đá and Rộc Tưng sites.”
Early this year, they collected 58 stone artifacts and 25 pieces of tektite. Stone artifacts collected include nine picks, five choppers, nine scrappers, two hammer stones, six flaked tools, three amorphous cored tools, 12 flakes, and 12 stone cores.
Tektites are gravel-size bodies composed of black, green, brown or gray natural glass formed from terrestrial debris ejected during meteorite impacts.
Due to the properties of tektites, scientists often use them to estimate dates for artifacts found in the same stratigraphic layer.
Tektites in Việt Nam from the Australian – Indochinese field have previously been estimated to be around 700-800 thousands years old.
“That’s why our preliminarily assessment is that the artefacts are associated with Homo erectus, an ancestor to modern humans which arose at least 1.8 million years ago,” said Đối.
Geographically, this is a transitional area from the highlands to the delta-coastal region in central Việt Nam. From the point of view of human geography, this is a long-standing residential area of Bahnar people speaking a language in the Môn-Khmer linguistic family.
“All sites have a single, intact cultural layer with stone objects. No sign of kitchen, tomb or human remains yet,” he said.
Đối supposed that no traces of humans were found because the archaeological site is outdoors, where organic matter would be destroyed easily. “Until now, we have only found Palaeolithic human bones in caves, where they can be preserved better,” he said.
This finding added evidence about the earliest Vietnamese history known. The excavation and research have just begun. It’s hoped that there will be new findings during subsequent excavations, said Nguyễn Xuân Thắng, director of the VASS.
“For the first time, Vietnamese archaeologists have discovered tektites dating from 700-800 thousands years ago, together with the early Palaeolithic artifacts. This is a turning point in our awareness about the dawn of national history.”
The findings will supply materials to compile national history, contribute more objects to be displayed at museums, and provide the foundation to develop a plan for protecting and developing cultural tourism in the Central Highlands, he said.
Results of the excavation also contradict the view that only prehistoric Western people used bifaced hand axes, while prehistoric Eastern people had choppers and chopping tools.
Vietnamese researchers intend to organise an international conference to announce investigation results and to consult foreign experts about protecting the site and further research. —VNS