'Priceless Discovery' in Vietnam

Times Staff Writer

Workers clearing the site of a proposed new National Assembly building in Hanoi have stumbled across a massive treasure-trove of antiquities and the remains of structures from four Vietnamese dynasties dating to the 6th century.

"It is a surprising and priceless discovery," Phan Huy Le, chairman of the Vietnam History Assn., told Agence France-Presse. "We uncovered the foundations of a big palace, a number of architectural works and millions of artifacts from the Chinese Tang Dynasty and the Vietnamese dynasties of Ly, Tran, Le and Nguyen."

Remains of at least eight humans were also found, including those of two children who may have been buried alive near the palace's main foundation to ward off evil spirits, Le said.

Among the artifacts are terracotta dragons, phoenix statues, ceramic urns, exotic bowls and unicorn heads. Many of the artifacts appear to have originated in China, Japan and the Middle East, indicating extensive foreign trade during the period.

Archeologists also discovered the foundations of a palace, nearly 200 feet long and 80 feet wide, that is possibly more than 1,000 years old. Writing engraved on tiles indicates that they were materials for a Ly Dynasty palace from the 11th century. Other discoveries included a lotus-shaped stonewall foundation, wells, an extensive drainage system, traces of an ancient river and lake, and trash dumps.

"This is the biggest and most important archeological find in Vietnam's history," said Tong Trung Tin of the Institute of Archeology.

Construction of the National Assembly building has been postponed, and it may be moved to another site.

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