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Hà Nội’s first human settlement under threat

Update: July, 13/2018 - 09:00
Archaeologists work on the excavation at the Vườn Chuối archaeological site. — Photo
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI — The Vườn Chuối archaeological site, though the most important and largest relic complex of the pre-Đông Sơn and Đông Sơn Cultures (700 BC - AD 100) in Vietnamese history, has long been on the brink of being wiped out.

The need to preserve the archaeological site, believed to be Hà Nội’s first human settlement, has become more urgent as a construction project is set to be built in Kim Chung Commune, Hoài Đức District, where the relic is located.

Vietnamese scientists have often fought for the preservation of the city’s invaluable archaeological treasure, and they recently gathered at a seminar held by Hà Nội’s Department of Culture and Sports to discuss the the site.

Pressure from encroachment

Since it was first discovered and excavated in 1969, eight excavations have been conducted in the Vườn Chuối archaeological site on 800 sq.m of the 19,000 sq.m of its total area, with the latest excavation in 2014.

A metre-thick layer across the site that contains artefacts offering insight into the lives of ancient people has been exploited. These deposits can be dated to the middle phase of the Bronze Age, coinciding with the Đồng Đậu Culture (1,500 – 1,000 BC). Additionally, vestiges and artefacts of various shapes and historical ages found there have also proved the significant archaeological values of the relic.

However, local authorities have done little to preserve this precious site.

Meanwhile, former Hà Tây Province, now a part of Hà Nội, approved of the Việt Nam Trading Engineering Construction Joint-Stock Corporation (Vietracimex)’s plan to construct a new urban area on 145.8 ha covering the area of Vườn Chuối in 2007.

Though the construction project has not begun, the archaeological site is being encroached by locals and is under threat of being wiped out.

Previously, Vườn Chuối used to a cultivating area and cemetery for locals. After the construction project was approved, many locals planted fruit trees within the site.

Also, a cement mixing station for the construction of the urban area has already been built.

According to Bùi Hữu Tiến, vice director of Museum of Anthropology under University of Social Sciences and Humanities, the planting of trees and constructing of the building foundation have damaged the relic.

Particularly, artefact stealing has been a problem since 2008. Though the thefts have reduced, local authorities needs to take stronger action to protect the relic.

Another worrying issue, according to Lương Công Hòa, the vice chairman of Kim Chung Commune’s People’s Committee, is the project of constructing the road linking Highway 32 to Thăng Long Road has been approved, which will severely affect the relic.

Preservation and development

Many opinions on the preservation of the Vườn Chuối archaeological site were brought up by experts at the conference.

As previous excavations were conducted on small scales, they proposed overall research on the archaeological site, which will serve as firm scientific foundation for proper preservation methods.

Associate professor Bùi Văn Liêm, deputy director of the Institute of Archaeology, argued that the preservation needs to begin from the study, surveys and excavations before the introduction of preservation methods, ensuring that the preservation will not hamper economic development.

Agreeing with the overall study, archaeologist Tống Trung Tín, director of the Việt Nam Archaeology Institute, also suggested several urgent solutions, one of which is collecting and compiling the dossiers of all the excavated artefacts to create a preliminary evaluation of the relic. After that, thorough study will be conducted to judge its current state.

The scientists also proposed that the city demand the investor adjust their construction project to leave the Vườn Chuối archaeological site intact or turn it into a park that will both protect the relic and ensure the benefits of the urban area.

Supporting the proposal, Trương Minh Tiến, deputy director of Hà Nội’s Department of Culture and Sports, said that the preservation had to be harmonised with development.

The department will build plan to propose to the city’s People’s Committee to conduct an overall study on the 19,000 sq.m of the site, he added.

The department will also finish and compile scientific dossier of the Vườn Chuối archaeological site as well as collect the artefacts of eight excavations for display at Hà Nội Museum. — VNS











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