Vietnamese archaeologist debunks 1,000-year-old altar claim

The remnants of what is thought to be a 1,000-year-old altar of the Ly Dynasty found last year in Hanoi is being refuted by a senior archaeologist.

26 May 2007 (Thanh Nien Daily) – The remnants of what is thought to be a 1,000-year-old altar of the Ly Dynasty found last year in Hanoi is being refuted by a senior archaeologist.

Hanoi discovery not 1,000-year-old altar, warns archeologist

A veteran archeologist has said that a relic unearthed recently in Hanoi was not a state altar dating back 1,000 years and so the government should not spend millions on honoring it.

Professor Nguyen Van Hao, former deputy head of the Archaeological Institute, told Thanh Nien the structure found in Dong Da district last year by a roadwork unit was not the dan xa tac (state altar) of the Ly Dynasty (1010-1225).

The top of the xa tac must be a high platform covered in five different-colored soils which this site was not, he said.

Instead, it was tiled and small – less than 15 square meters – while the state altar would have been larger.

The structure has four small brick foundations, of which the bottom layer is acknowledged to have been built by the Ly dynasty and the three upper ones by the Le dynasty. Hao said it was illogical that the Le dynasty alone would build three xa tac altars.

“In my opinion what people found are just the remains of a certain architectural work done by the Ly.”

The altar was discovered last November by a group of workers building a new road.

Read more about Professor Nguyen’s objections to the supposed state altar.

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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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