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

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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.

Capital city excavates millenary-old altar

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19 November 2006 (Thanh Nien News)

Thanh Nien News, 19 Nov 2006

Capital city excavates millenary-old altar

Archaeologists in Hanoi affirmed Thursday that the ancient structure found some weeks ago by a roadwork unit was the Xa Tac (State) altar that Ly Dynasty had built some 1,000 years ago.

They have since Oct. 30 studied three excavated areas around a 100 meter square site under the Kim Lien-O Cho Dua road in Dong Da District, discovering a brick foundation, yard, walls, glasses, and porcelains of three successive dynasties – Ly (1009-1225), Tran (1225-1400), Le (1428-1527).

New rock art site discovered in Myanmar

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This is a bit of exciting news, for me personally – the discovery of a new rock art site in Myanmar. The articles imply that it the new site, named Mya Kha Nauk, is the second rock art site to be found after the Padalin Caves (which is in the same area), but there really are two or three other known sites that have been discovered in the last few decades, but reports of them are less-known.

Mya Kha Nauk rock art. Source: The Irrawady 20150529

Mya Kha Nauk rock art. Source: The Irrawady 20150529

Prehistoric Paintings Identified in Central Burma
The Irrawady, 29 May 2015

Stone Age paintings and tools uncovered in Shan State
Myanmar times, 03 June 2015

A rock formation etched with prehistoric drawings and what is believed to have been an animist worship altar has been identified deep in the forests of Pae Dwe mountain, located between Ywa Ngan Township in Shan State and Wun Dwin Township of neighboring Mandalay Division.

The prehistoric art is the first finding of its kind in more than a half century, with the last known discovery inside central Burma’s Padah-Lin caves.

Amateur adventurer Win Bo stumbled upon the images on Saturday at an area known locally as Mya Kha Nauk, about eight miles southwest of the famous Padah-Lin caves

A group led by veteran historian Win Maung (Tampawaddy), amateur archaeologists, historians from Mandalay, researchers and Aung Aung Kyaw, the deputy director of the Ministry of Culture’s research department, reached the rock shelter on Wednesday and carried out preliminary research at the site.

Full story here and here.

Linkdump: Last month’s archaeology news

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Finally, I’m back! I’ll write a short post later about what I’ve been up to in the field (unless you’re my facebook friend already and seen all the pictures already!). After about six weeks away from the blog, I’ve been spending the last week just processing and backing up the data from my trip and sifting through the news feeds for stories I’ve missed. Here’s a roundup of stories for the time while I was away:


  • Phnom Penh Post, 30 April 2012: A brief firefight at Preah Vihear leaves one Cambodian soldier shot.
  • Science Codex, 09 May 2012: The discovery of a previously-unknown people living in the Cardamom mountains, contemporary to Angkor and evidenced by jar burials is announced.
  • The Times Live, 10 May 2012: Another story on the jar burial culture in the Cardamom mountains. [Link no longer active]
  • TR Weekly, 11 May 2012: Siem Reap sees a dramatic 45% increase in visitors during the first quarter of 2012. [Link no longer active]
  • DVXUser, 14 May 2012: Oh Angkor! is a minidocumentary by Gunther Machu using the quotes of historical travellers to the ancient city.
  • Phnom Penh Post, 25 May 2012: A rare piece that is not about Angkor – the Phnom Penh Municipality purchases a war relic found in the Mekong: a wing of a Cambodian aircraft from the 1960s.
  • New York Times, 01 June 2012: Cambodia is seeking the return of two statues from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  •, 07 June 2012: This editorial asks if Cambodian ‘blood antiquities’ should be returned.


  • Jakarta Post, 24 May 2012: The tomb of a South Sulawesi king, Sultan Hasanuddin, is found desecrated.
  • Jakarta Globe, 31 May 2012: A minister for Education and Culture raised awareness of the “pitiful” state of some of the country’s museums.


  • Mizzima, 27 April 2012: Italy and Myanmar to cooperate in the preservation of Bagan and Pyu sites. [Link no longer active]
  • New Straits Times, 10 May 2012: A feature on the prehistoric and other archaeological features of Perak. [Link no longer active]
  • Bernama, 04 June 2012: Archaeologists announce that the Sungei Batu site in Kedah may be one of the oldest civilizations in the surrounding region.
  • Borneo Post, 06 June 2012: The Ministry of Information and Culture announces their intention to rewrite the Sejarah Melayu (The Malay Annals or Geneaology of Malay Kings) into modern prose for increased accessibility


  • Myanmar Times, 30 April – 6 May 2012: Three Pyu sites will be proposed for inclusion into the World Heritage List by the Ministry of Information and Culture.
  • The Straits Times (via Jakarta Globe), 24 May 2012: A feature on historian Thant Myint U and the Rangoon Heritage Trust.
  • Myanmar Times, 04-10 June 2012: A recent conference on conservation strategy stressed the need for a conservation plan for the colonial-era buildings of Yangon.


  • AFP, via Channel NewsAsia, 30 April 2012: As many as 50 of Philippines’ indigenous languages may become extinct in the next 20 years.
  • Philippine Information Agency, 02 May 2012: The World Heritage Committee issues a set of guidelines for the management of the Ifugao Rice Terraces.
  • The Philippne Star, 08 May 2012: A proposal to declare the Ille Cave in Palawan a heritage park. (See also here).
  • Philippine Information Agency, 28 May 2012: Archaeologists arrive in Butuan to resume excavations of a Balangay boat.
  • Inquirer, 29 May 2012: A speculation of whether World War II artefacts were unearthed during a public works project and illegally sold.
  • Minda News, 30 May 2012: Excavations of the 4th Balangay boat begins in Butuan.
  • Philippine Information Agency, 31 May 2012: The Ifugao Archaeological Project Field School opens. (You can read their ongoing exploits on the Field School blog here.)
  • Philippine Information Agency, 04 June 2012: National Museum Archaeologists working to excavate another Balangay Boat in Butuan have reported that they are 1/3 of the way complete.


  • via the NSC Archaeology Unit, 09 May 2012: For those who missed it, Prof. John Miksic’s talk on Guerilla Archaeology in Singapore is now online here.

Sri Lanka

  • Daily News, 10 May 2012: Sri Lanka authorities report a steep rise in the theft and looting of sites.




  • Viet Nam News, 07 May 2012: An update on the deteriorating Champa structures in Quang Nam Province. [Link no longer active]
  • Saigon Giai Phong, 09 May 2012: The Ho Citadel receives the title of World Cultural Heritage Site.
  • Vietnam Net Bridge, 13 May 2012: A feature on a priest at Ho Chi Minh City and his collection of lamps and books.
  • Vietnam News, 15 May 2012: A feature on the problems of improper restoration and conservation efforts in Vietnam. [Link no longer active]
  • Vietnam Net Bridge, 17 May 2012: A set of 14th century Buddhist woodblocks have been recognised as Unesco World Heritage.
  • Vietnam Net Bridge, 19 May 2012: An exhibition on Vietnam’s Maritime Cultural Heritage opens in Hanoi. [Link no longer active]
  • Viet Nam News, 22 May 2012: Archaeologist discover the remains of a water buffalo at the Nam Giao altar site. [Link no longer active]
  • Viet Nam News, 30 May 2012: Pre-1945 documents pertaining to the World Heritage Ho Citadel in Thanh Hoa Province are on display at the province library. [Link no longer active]
  • Viet Nam News, 30 May 2012: The Ta Vu Pavilion in the historic city of Hue will be restored later this year with the help of German conservationists. [Link no longer active]
  • Vietnam Net Bridge, 03 June 2012: A feature on the centuries old practice of ancestor worship, the Festival of the Hung Kings. [Link no longer active]
  • Viet Nam News, 05 June 2012: Archaeologist raise awareness for the need to better preserve the Nam Giao Altar site against landslides, especially in the upcoming rainy season. [Link no longer active]

The mystery of the Vietnamese mummies

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24 November 2007 (Vietnam Net Bridge) – The Vietnam Archaeology Institute take on the conservation of two 300-year-old preserved bodies of monks. The two mummies are regarded as sacred objects and how they came to be mummified (embalmed, really) is a mystery.

Vietnam Net Bridge, 24 Nov 2007

The mummies return
Duc Hanh heads to Dau pagoda where where two mysterious mummies have lived in silence for 300 years Past a lake and a number of paddy fields, the Dau pagoda sits in isolation near the outskirts of Gia Phuc village in Ha Tay province.

Although originally built in the 11th century under the Ly Dynasty, the pagoda bears the hallmarks of Le-Nguyen dynasty in the 17th century as a number of renovations occurred at that time. Dau pagoda is officially named Thanh Dao Tu or Phap Vu Tu and is dedicated to the Goddess of Rain.

But I’m here to meet two monks, who are shrouded in mystery. At first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking these monks were just statues. But in actual fact these are a pair of monks, Vu Khac Minh and monk Vu Khac Truong, who lived in the pagoda more than 300 years ago, were embalmed and preserved after their death.

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