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16 November 2008
Vietnamese cave reveals relics and tombs from the Neolithic

Archaeologists have finished the second phase of excavation at Phia Mun Cave, Na Hang District in the province of Tuyen Quang (Viet Nam) and have uncovered over 1,000 relics and 12 tombs of the Neolithic Hoa Binh culture.
     Excavations began in May last year and archaeologists soon realised the importance of the site, as they quickly uncovered objects 6,000 to 7,000 years old, and concluded that the cave was inhabited during Neolithic times. "I have been doing archaeological research for 32 years at many caves, and this time it was really tough work, the cave was located in deep jungle making work very difficult," said Trinh Nang Chung of the Viet Nam Institute of Archaeology, head of the archaeology team. "The reward for it being so difficult to get to is that the site is completely untouched, in pristine condition."
     During excavation of the first strata archaeologists uncovered stone tools, animal bones and sea snail shells, proving that the inhabitants of the cave had contact with coastal tribes. They also discovered a set of tools carved with motifs of the Hoa Binh culture. The tools were made in the cave and the flint chips made from shaping tools were then used to make other tools. Excavating the second strata archaeologists found food remains including the bones and teeth of animals, snail, oyster and mussel shells, coal ashes, and stone axe-heads. Rudimentary ceramic pieces were found decorated with patterns, estimated to be 4,000 years old.
     Human remains were found in four of the 12 tombs uncovered, while the other tombs held stone tools. The discovery of the tombs gave archaeologists an insight into the customs of Hoa Binh culture, said Chung. "We found important evidence as to the customs and traditions of the ancients," he said. The dead were buried in two positions, either lying on the back or lying on one side with the arms clasping the knees. "The ancients often buried the dead close to the village in the belief the spirits should be close to the relatives," said Chung.
     Chung has petitioned authorities to protect the site as it had proved a wealth of knowledge and artefacts. The Viet Nam Institute of Archaeology and the Tuyen Quang Museum have co-operated in excavating and preserving artefacts from the site.

Source: Viet Nam News (13 November 2008)

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