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1,000-year-old Cham tower unearthed

Update: August, 25/2012 - 08:33


Archaeologists examine a section of the recently discovered Cham tower. — VNA/VNS Photos Hong Thuy
DA NANG — The remains of a unique Cham tower have been found in Phong Le Village, Cam Le District in the central city of Da Nang, an area not known for Cham relics.

Archaeologists from the city's Museum of Cham Sculpture and Faculty of History at the University of Social Sciences and Humanity discovered the site last year and earlier this month found the foundations of the structure, which measure 16m by 16m, said Vo Van Thang, director of the museum.

"We have unearthed this vestige dating back 1,000 years ago and the foundations are still intact," he said. "Experts were surprised because this is the first archaeological vestige relating to Cham culture found in Da Nang and it's different from other Cham relics found in other regions."

"The discovery is very important," he said.

The excavation was prompted by the discovery of many valuable Cham artefacts at the same site last year.

The Champa Kingdom reigned the central coast of modern-day Viet Nam between the 4th and 13th centuries. Cham culture, including towers, folk songs and dances and traditional festivals, are an important part of Viet Nam's cultural diversity.

Holy place

Last week, the archaeologists found a square well built with Cham bricks under the remains of the tower, which is considered as the main tower at the site. The well, which is 4.25m-by-4.25m and 1.8m in depth, is thought to have been used to store holy water.

Archaeologists found eight small depressions surrounding the bottom of the well and a round pit with a diameter of 1m at the centre and strange arrangement of stone and sand, which haven't been seen before at any Cham tower, said archaeologist Nguyen Chieu from the University of Social Sciences and Humanity.

The arrangement of a square brick on a cylindrical stone in each depression could have been a linga and yoni, male and female sexual organs, which were popular worshipping objects in Cham religion and culture symbolising creative and reproductive energy. White quartz stones placed in front of the depressions also puzzled experts.

"We found 32 layers of sand and stone covering the mouth of the holy well," he said. "They were arranged carefully, one layer of white sand overlapping one layer of stones, without any different material."

Chieu said the layers were compressed to help ensure the stability of the tower, a special technique used in Cham architecture.

"We assume that the square hole is a holy part of the temple and the eight depressions at its bottom symbolise eight gods guarding the site, but research has begun into this and we don't want to jump to any conclusions," he said.

Archaeologists will expand the excavation site to an area of about 500sq.m in a bid to better understand the tower's structure and purpose. They plan to finish the excavation and announce the results of their research next month.

City authorities have asked relevant agencies to continue excavating the site with a view to future restoration work. A plan to protect the site and its artefacts is also being discussed as many curious residents gather at the area in the hope of finding valuable antiques. — VNS

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