The wrath of the gods and other hassles

A convoluted tale of mistaken identification of provenance, treasure-hunting and “duds” in Vietnam.

23 June 2006 (Thanh Nien Daily News) – A convoluted tale of mistaken identification of provenance, treasure-hunting and “duds” in Vietnam.

The wrath of the gods and other hassles

The Vietnamese police have returned artifacts they earlier claimed to be a “national treasure” made of pure gold to a woman who dug them up in 1997, giving rise to tales of gold, gods, and the law.

… In 2001, after running up debts, the woman decided to sell the ‘treasure’… attracted the attention of the police, who, believing the objects to be national treasures, seized everything pending investigation.

Besides confiscating the money from the purchase, the police asked the local people’s committee to fine Bay for trading in national treasures, which is punishable under Vietnamese law.

… The National Council for Antiquity Analysis tested the objects and concluded they were cast recently and were definitely not national treasures.

… The site of the treasure, Bay’s garden, used to be a part of the Cham kingdom, which was rich in gold. The Cham also made lots of small idols, many of them in pure gold.

Thus, someone living there much later could have dug up genuinely gold idols and, believing they had robbed the earth of a precious treasure and fearing its wrath, made fake idols to replace them.

After bringing home the real treasures, they could have buried the fake ones at the exact location to cheat the earth goddess into believing they were still there.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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