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Bảo tàng lịch sử Quốc gia

Vietnam National Museum of History

30/08/2008 14:18 3097
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The site of Nghia Lap is situated at the hamlet Nghia Lap, commune of Nghia Hung, huyen of Vinh Tuong, province of Vinh Phuc. The site has suffered a first excavation at the end of 1967. After a general study of the site and of the vestiges, the authors have classified Nghia Lap in the culture of Phung Nguyen, dating from the beginning of the bronze age.

The site of Nghia Lap is situated at the hamlet Nghia Lap, commune of Nghia Hung, huyen of Vinh Tuong, province of Vinh Phuc. The site has suffered a first excavation at the end of 1967. After a general study of the site and of the vestiges, the authors have classified Nghia Lap in the culture of Phung Nguyen, dating from the beginning of the bronze age.

40 years after, in 12/2006, the site of Nghia Lap suffers a second excavation, in the programme of cooperation in research between the National Museum of Vietnamese History, the Museum of Archaeology and Culture of Tu Xuyen and the Museum of Archaeology and Culture of Thiem Tay (China). This excavation has had new discoveries, with important informations.

Results of the excavation

The pits of the excavation and the earth layers

After the inspection of the relief and the earth layers by the spade Lac Duong, we decide to dig pits at the quarter Xom Chua, at the north-west of the actual hamlet. Nine pits have been dug with a total area of 200m2, among which eight are in the garden of the pagoda and one in the field of maize.

The disposition of the earth layers of the excavation pits in the garden of the pagoda is rather uniform but differs totally from that in the field of maize. Because of this difference between the earth layers and also between the vestiges, we will call the quarter Xom Chua quarter A and the quarter of the field of maize quarter B.

The disposition of the earth layers of quarter A has lhe following big features:

- In the upper part is the arable layer, clear brown, about 20 – 40cm thick, reaching sometimes 70 – 80cm, containing pieces of ceramics, faience, modern glass and certain objects of Phung Nguyen (stone axes, pieces of ceramics). This is due to field works of the population which brought the objects of the cultural layer io the upper layer.

- Under the arable layer is a strongly lateritized layer with much iron precipitation. This layer is 10cm thick, not uniformly spread. There is no ancient objects in this layer.

- Below is the cultural layer. This layer is about 60 – 70cm thick, reaching in some places 1m. The cultural layer can be divided into two layers:

+ The upper layer (corresponding to the 5th layer of the excavation) is grey black, of loose structure, about 30 – 50cm thick, reaching 80cm in some places. The vestiges and ancient objects are concentrated mainly in this layer.

+ The lower layer (corresponding to the 6th layer) is yellow clay, rather hard, 20 – 40cm thick. Only some pieces of ceramics are discovered here.

- The basic earth is red laterite mixed with “fly headed shaped” pebbles with uneven surface.

The disposition of the earth layers of the quarter B has the following main features:

- In the upper part is the arable layer, brown, 15 – 20cm thick, containing modern bricks and tiles.

- Under the arable layer is the cultural layer, 60 – 80cm thick, brown yellow, of strong structure, not loose and black as in the quarter A. The vestiges here are stone objects and ceramics, the ceramics being in general big pieces and are more coloured than the ceramics found in the quarter A. But the decorations are not so rich.

- The basic earth is the “fly headed shaped” earth, with uneven surface.

The site

Tumb: The tumb is found in the pit T4, at a depth of 60cm, near the north wall. The tumb is rectangular, 210cm long, 80cm wide and 40 – 45cm deep. The tumb is east-west oriented and deviated 40o to the south. The skeleton is rather intact, showing that the dead is lying on the back, with the head toward the east, the face lightly turned to the right (perhaps under the earth pressure). A summary examination shows that this is an adult individual. The present length of the skeleton is 150cm, which implies that when alive, the individual can be 155 – 157cm high. However, the parts which would help to determine the age, the sex, the race (skull, eyebrow arch, tooth, basin) have nearly disappeared.

The object buried with the dead is a bowl with a cylindrical foot, placed at a distance of 20cm from the head of the dead. The bowl is of gross ceramics mixed with much sand, of clear red colour, the body and the foot of the bowl being decorated with rather beautiful drawings in relief. The bowl is about 30cm of diameter, 23cm high.

By comparing the depth of the tumb with the earth layer of the pit of excavation, we can conclude that the age of the tumb is rather old, corresponding to the lower cultural layer of the site.

Pits of black earth: In the 6 pits of excavation, we have found in total 16 pits of black earth. The depth of discovery of these pits is 30 – 50cm, belonging to the upper cultural layer. These pits are of different shapes and dimensions, these ones are round, the others are rectangular, others are square, there are pits with a round opening and a square bottom. The round pits are about 50 – 100cm of diameter, the square pits are about 80 – 100cm of side, the rectangular pits are in general 100 – 140cm long, 80 – 100cm wide, and 30 – 40cm deep. Nearly all the pits are of north-west – south-east orientation.

The order of the earth layers in the pits is not the same. In certain pits, the upper part earth has in general a grey black or brown black color, full of remains of ceramics, of ashes and earthenware, of a thickness of 20 – 40cm. After this layer has been removed, one finds a layer of grey yellow clay of about 20cm of depth. Under this clay layer is a layer of ashes of 10cm of thickness. Under the ashes layer, one finds still a layer of yellow clay of about 15 – 20cm of thickness, before arriving at the basic earth. However, certain pits have only the layer of black earth mixed with pieces of ceramics and burnt earth in the upper part and a layer of yellow clay in the lower part. Certain other pits have only grey earth and no ancient objects.


Stone objects : The quantity of stone objects found in the cultural layer and the pits of black earth is more than 100 specimens, rather rich in types such as: axes, sharpening stones, stones for beating barks, heads of arrow, pieces of bracelet, hair bars… among which objects like stones for beating barks (with handle), heads of arrow, pieces of polygonal bracelet, hair bars, are considered as new discoveries in the Phung Nguyen culture.

Objects of ceramics: The quantity of found pieces of ceramics is about 20000 pieces among which there are whole pieces or pieces which can be restored to give the initial object.

The found remains permit to conclude that the ceramics of Nghia Lap are of rather rich types: cooking-pots, vases, bottles, jars, bowls, polygonal dishes, fiber shuttles, ceramic forks, ceramic balls, statues of animals. As for decorations, besides string decorations, one can say that at Nghia Lap, all typical decorations of the Phung Nguyen culture are to be found, from decorations with complex symmetrical streaks to decorations with simple streaks, from tapes of streaks combined with small holes to lines of streaks combined with gross holes. Besides, the people of Nghia lap decorate their ceramics by painting them with yellow earth or lead powder.

Note that this time we have found a statue of animal. The statue is in earthenware of clear pink color, of round shape, modelling a dog’s head looking at the sky, with eyes, ears and a nose. The lower part is decorated with two tapes, each tape formed by three lines. It seems not to be an independent statue, but part of a certain object.


Through the whole of the site and the vestiges, one can conclude that Nghia Lap is a residence site, a village of population living from agriculture and breeding. Moreover, the ancient population of Nghia Lo practise handicrafts such as ceramics making, weaving, making of bark stuffs. On the other hand, the discovery of tumbs shows that Nghia Lap is a tumb site. The age of the site is estimated to 3500 years.

Note that this is the first time when vietnamese and chinese archaeological services are cooperating in the excavation of a site situated on the vietnamese territory. With this excavation, vietnamese and chinese archaeologists can carry out exchanges as well on the methods of excavation as on archaeological knowledges, which increases mutual understanding of archaeology and of the culture of the two countries. One can say that the success of this excavation has opened a cooperation perspective of long term between Vietnam and China, not only in the domain of excavation but also in other domains such as the exhibition, the preservation of specimens, the training of cadres.

Truong Dac Chien


National museum of Vietnammese History



Archaeological News

  • 30/08/2008 14:16
  • 2914

According to Decision nr. 3536 – BVHTT of the Ministry of Culture and Information, the Museum of History of Vietnam in coordination with the Service of Culture and Information of Thua Thien – Hue, has undertaken the archaeological excavation of the site Con Dai, commune of Huong Chu, district of Huong Tra, province of Thua Thien – Hue.