|What this tells you: Le Quoc Tuong uses stone ancient artifacts to teach history to his students. — VNS Photo Lam Giang
by Xuan Thi
We followed the Ho Chi Minh Highway, which runs between vast rubber plantations, to arrive in Phu Dinh Commune in Bo Trach District of the central province of Quang Binh.
We were here to visit a local teacher who had diligently collected rare ancient Vietnamese stone artefacts depicting his homeland for nearly 30 years.
Le Quoc Tuong, a history teacher at Phu Dinh Junior High School in Bo Trach, had an artefact collection that had surprised archaeology researchers since it demonstrated that the land was rich in cultural relics.
Seated in his tiny house, the teacher recalled being assigned to teach history in 1985, after a new academic year has been ushered in by loud drumbeats.
"In those days, the school was facing many challenges, so we had almost no teaching materials," he said.
Therefore, after classes, he would spend time searching for documents, photographs and artefacts related to the history lessons he was teaching.
Coincidentally, while visiting a sick student, he noticed the student's father painstakingly grinding down a stone.
Tuong asked about it, and the father said that the stone was a "lightning hatchet of Heaven" that had thundered down onto the land. He wanted to grind it into a powder and mix it with water as a cure for his son's stomach pain.
Upon examining the stone, Tuong thought it looked similar to the stone axe of the ancient Vietnamese.
He asked the man if he could borrow the stone for further study and compare it with other materials.
Drawing on his knowledge of history, Tuong asserted that the item was in fact an authentic stone axe created by the ancient Vietnamese.
|Looking sharp: Some of Tuong's ancient stone axes.
The next day, during class, Tuong explained to his students the harmful effects of treating illnesses with unscientific methods.
He simultaneously launched the movements "We do archaeology" and "People do archaeology" to mobilize students and their parents to seek out and collect stone artefacts.
The results were a surprise; after a short period, the students found many ancient stone axes in the local lake, streams and hills.
Tuong said his time spent as a teacher for 30 years was also the time he spent pursuing his passion of collecting ancient stone objects. To date, he has gathered more than 50 artefacts.
Some of the collected items were presented to other teachers in the school and to acquaintances as a souvenir. Tuong has kept only 36 objects, mainly stone axes.
"In 2002, through the movement 'We do archeology', my students found 22 stone artefacts around the villages in Phu Dinh Commune.
"After almost 30 years of searching for and collecting these artefacts, the value is not in their number. They feature a rich variety of shapes and materials.
"It is extremely important for researchers to study the subject further and develop a better explanation for the traces left behind on this land by the ancient people," Tuong said.
Asked why people have discovered so many of these stone artefacts on this particular land, Tuong explained that Phu Dinh was a special area. Its topography featured many streams, caves, and trees, and it was a suitable region for the primitive people's migration and temporary residence.
"Also, there were exchanges of production tools between groups of primitive people," he said.
Through collecting artefacts and gaining experience, Tuong affirmed: "The remnants of this culture are distributed from Minh Hoa and Tuyen Hoa districts to Khuong Ha and Phu Dinh in Bo Trach District, down to Bau Tro in Dong Hoi District."
The Head of Professional Unit of Quang Binh Province Museum, Tran Thi Dieu Hong, said Tuong's collection of artefacts belonged to the early stage of Hoa Binh culture up to the post-Neolithic period, that is, the Bau Tro culture, which dates back 12,000 years to 4,000 years BC.
"The collection includes specimens such as pieces, stone adzes, hoes and axes. These are the working tools made by primitive men.
"Their materials are diverse, from the axes made of pebble, hewn in one size, to the square axes with fully polished bodies. Of special note is an axe with a square shoulder and another with a shoulder cut in the form of a fishtail and made of marble - a unique artefact that was found in this region," she said.
The enormous scientific value of the ancient stone artefacts discovered in Phu Dinh by Tuong over the course of nearly 30 years has effectively put Phu Dinh on the archaeological map of Quang Binh Province.
In his latest gesture to preserve the historical identity of the land, Tuong recently presented to Quang Binh Province Museum 28 artefacts from his collection. — VNS