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Bai Coi, a meeting place of civilisations

A unique exhibition in downtown Hanoi is featuring Bai Coi in the central province of Ha Tinh, a special archaeological site bearing the characteristics of the Dong Son (800-200BC) and Sa Huynh (1,000-200BC) civilisations.

The site includes Bai Coi and several places surrounding it like Bai Loi and Bai Phoi Phoi in Xuan Vien Commune, Nghi Xuan District of Ha Tinh Province.

The area is located at the foot of Hong Linh Mountain, by the La River, the natural border of Nghe An and Ha Tinh provinces.

Archaeologists work at the site. Photos courtesy of the organisers 

After many excavations conducted by Vietnamese and South Korean archaeologists, the site has been proven to have features of both Dong Son and Sa Huynh civilisations.

The site was recognised as a National Level Relic Site in 2014 by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

The exhibition displays more than 15 objects and documents in various materials like stone, ceramic, metal and glass.

A tomb has been made at the exhibition to help the audience imagine the site in early history.

According to Nguyen Van Doan, director of the National Museum of Vietnamese History, the Dong Son civilisation was located from Ha Tinh-Quang Binh to the north while the Sa Huynh civilisation stretched from Quang Ngai southward.

Discoveries at Bai Coi proved Ha Tinh is the meeting place of the two civilisations, he said.

“Findings at the site changed previous assumptions on the two civilisations,” he added. “Bai Coi has an important meaning in doing research on Vietnam’s early history.”

In 1974, scientists from the Vietnam Archaeology Institute unearthed many stone and bronze objects here. They assumed the site hosted many objects in a large area, which might have been a tomb area of Dong Son culture.

The museum and Ha Tinh’s culture department conducted excavations at the site in 2008 and 2009.

The first time, scientists gathered a large number of objects together with 16 tombs, which had features of Sa Huynh civilisation but influenced by Dong Son civilization of around 1st-2nd century AD.

At the end of 2009, another excavation was conducted at the site on further areas at Bai Phoi Phoi, Bai Loi, Trang Van, and Phuc Da Temple, which unearthed 13 ancient tombs and buried objects.

A ceramic jar tomb displayed at the exhibition. VNS Photo Doan Tung

The findings showed the tomb site was spread in a large area, which existed from some 300AD to the 1st century AD.

In 2012, the site was excavated once more by the museum and the National Museum of Korean History, which unveiled 15 more tombs and many buried objects.

All the objects were then transferred to South Korea for research and restoration, including metal objects like earrings, bracelets, axes, knives and hoes.

South Korean archaeologists discovered various kinds of fibres stuck on the surface of the metal objects, which led them to do further research on the weaving of early people, said Nguyen Manh Thang, head of Research and Collecting Department of the museum.

“Modern facilities and careful research process helped us define materials and forms of objects found, which is a significant feature in the co-operation between the two museums,” he said.

A model of twin tombs displayed at the exhibition. VNS Photo Doan Tung

Bai Coi is a complex of tombs scattered in a large area with two forms of tombs, namely bodies buried in soil and bodies buried in ceramic jars.

Thang said ceramic jars in Bai Coi are of smaller size than those in Sa Huynh, Quang Ngai.

Soil tombs here have a later date compared jar ones. Scientist found here many soil tombs cut across jar tombs, which had been buried before.

The exhibition will run at the National Museum of Vietnamese History, No 1 Pham Ngu Lao Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi till the end of April next year. VNS 

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