Aug 1, 2010

Vestiges of different historical periods

VGP - From 2002 to the end of 2003, an archaeological excavation was carried out on a 40,000 square meter site. The site is located at Hoàng Diệu Street, Ba Đình District, Hà Nội. About 20,000 sq.m were excavated and divided into 4 sections which are coded as A, B, C, and D. The depth of each archaeological lot is about 4 meters, which includes many artifacts from different dynasties.

Map of excavation sections

At the depth of about 1 meter underground is the most recent cultural stratum which has been uncovered. Here, artifacts from the 19th–20th centuries (Nguyễn Dynasty) have been unearthed. Artifacts found include: two wells built of stone and bricks; ceramic bowls, plates, jars, containers, incense burners, and bottles. The artifacts are items that were used daily and were all produced at Bát Tràng and Phù Lãng. They have different colored glozes (blue, white, grey, etc.) and different ornamental patterns (flowers, bamboo, line dots, brown lines).

At the depth of 1 to 2 meters, there were cultural relics from the Posterior Lê Dynasty (15th to 18th centuries). In fact, this layer of artifacts also includes traces of the early Lê Dynasty (circa 15th century), the Mạc (circa 16th century), the Restored Lê (circa 17th–18th centuries), and even the Tây Sơn (early 18th century).

A phoenix motif of the roof tile from the Lý Dynasty

The cultural stratum of the Lê era has exposed artifacts from the 15th–18th centuries. Items include fragments of the brick foundations from buildings; bowls, plates, jars, jugs, cups, pots, food containers, and lime-pots (white, turquoise and glue glazes). Most of the objects uncovered belonged to the king, the royal family, or aristocrats. These items were all decorated with a five-clawed dragon, the Chinese character “Guan” and the characters Trường Lạc (the name of the queen during Lê Thánh Tông’s rule), or Trường Lạc khố, (Lê Hiến Tông’s mother).

Vestiges of the Lý, Trần and Nguyễn Dynasties are also present at this layer. But most of the artifacts during this era have been heavily disturbed. This is common among artifacts from the Lê Dynasty. At the depth of 2 to 3 meters, there is the cultural stratum of the Lý (11th–12th centuries) and the Trần (13th–14th centuries) Dynasties. These two historical periods shared many similarities with each other. This was a period when Vietnamese civilization produced a brilliant culture referred to as Thăng Long. Though most of the artifacts in this layer were from the Lê and Trần Dynasties, it also included artifacts from the Đinh through the Anterior Lê Dynasties (10th–14th centuries). The artifacts found include: the foundation of ancient buildings (stone column bases with lotus decorations typical of the Lý–Trần sculpture), the foundations with brick-paved edges; red brick wells; a square pond filled up with construction materials and ceramic objects. Many of the smaller artifacts included items such as: bowls, boxes with covers, lamp-plates, replicas of towers, big jars, and pots. The design on the items shows that the objects belonged to the royal family and aristocracy. Among the artifacts are bricks carved with Chinese characters showing that they were produced in 1057, under the reign of the third king of the Lý Dynasty.

A sacred animal head from the Trần Dynasty

At the depth of 3-4 meters there is the cultural stratum of the historical period known as Đại La, when Việt Nam was ruled by the Chinese Tang Dynasty, Đại La was also the name of a citadel at that time, on the same location of the excavation site.

This stratum bears the cultural characteristics of Việt Nam under the Tang (a Chinese Dynasty) rule. This period existed from the 7th to 9th centuries, before King Lý Thái Tổ founded the Thăng Long capital in 2010. This layer is referred to as the pre-Thăng Long layer.

In brief, the excavation at the Thăng Long citadel has revealed 4 cultural strata.

1 – Đại La or pre-Thăng Long period: 7th to early 10th centuries (primarily the 9th century).

2 – Lý–Trần period: 11th–14th centuries (some vestiges of the Đinh–Anterior Lê Dynasties in the 10th century).

3 – Lê period (Early Lê, Mạc, Restored Lê, Tây Sơn): 15th–18th centuries.

4 – Nguyễn period: 19th century. This included traces of the French colonial period (late 19th–early 20th centuries) up until the 20th century. The excavation site demonstrates a 1,300-year course of development of Vietnamese culture. It is located next to the Hà Nội Citadel (built in 1805 and destroyed in 1897) and to the west of what used to be the Royal Citadel and the Forbidden Citadel of Thăng Long. It is an invaluable asset for the history and culture of Việt Nam.

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