Vestiges of Cham towers unveiled in Da Nang

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Three excavations saw archaeologists find statues of animals, ceramics and roof tiles. The finding at Phong Le Village is believed to be the site of a Cham place of worship from the 10th to 11th century.

Vestiges of Cham towers unveiled in Da Nang
An excavation site of a Cham tower in Phong Le Village in Cam Le District, 10km away
from Da Nang City’s centre [Credit: Cong Thanh, VNS Photos]

Cham is an indigenous group of Vietnam and Cambodia, who formed an independent kingdom from the 2nd to 17th centuries AD.

Associated Professor Dang Hong Son, a member of the archaeology team, said the third excavation exposed foundation structures of the main tower (Kalan), a gate tower and long house (mandapan) as well as boundary walls.




Son said the team sketched out a map of at least five Cham towers in the area with boundary walls and a structure of a long house.

He said the third excavation season in the village continued trailing evidence and objects (stone, bricks and statues) that were found in the first (2011) and the second seasons (2012).

Vestiges of Cham towers unveiled in Da Nang
A sand-stone statue of lion was found during an excavation of a Cham tower
 in Da Nang City [Credit: Cong Thanh, VNS Photos]

“We expanded excavation under the review and identified ancient items from the previous digging. Foundation structures showed that a typical complex of Cham towers had been built on a high foundation near ancient flows. The complex would have been situated on the defunct estuary of an old river,” Son said.

“We found an intact sand-stone lion (Simha) – which is similar to those found in Tra Kieu Cham tower in Quang Nam Province from 10th-11th century – along with other 22 statues of snakes, elephant, the Garuda (a legendary bird) and the prayer, as well as brick, tile and ceramic (including ceramic objects made by Cham people and potteries from Sung (China) dynasty),” he said.

Son said a tube roof tile that was found during the excavation.

“The round tile has a face of people with a Han script on the forehead,” he said. “The roof tile style is the same as those discovered in Luy Lau Citadel (the second century) in the northern province of Bac Ninh.”

Vestiges of Cham towers unveiled in Da Nang
Artefacts discovered from an excavation of Cham towers in Da Nang [Credit: Cong Thanh, VNS Photos]

The tile has a person’s face on it, which, according to Son, was the first of its kind discovered in central Vietnam.

He said the tile style is also similar to those found in the Cham towers in the UNESCO-recognised world heritage My Son Sanctuary in Quang Nam Province.




According to archaeologists, at least 10 complexes of Cham towers existed in Da Nang City, but rapid urbanisation in the city might bury many.

Previous excavations discovered that foundations of many Cham towers in the city were partly damaged for new constructions of buildings.

Vestiges of Cham towers unveiled in Da Nang
Ceramic and brick fragments of a Cham tower [Credit: Cong Thanh, VNS Photos]

Director of the Museum of Cham Sculpture, Ho Tan Tuan said this was the largest complex of Cham towers in the area.

This latest excavation is 500m away from the Cam Le River, and underneath three houses.

“It took us six years to compensate to villagers for removal of buildings before excavation could take place on the site,” the director said.

“Traces of the old river could be seen as depressed trenches, and archaeologists will continue seeking an old port of a busy waterway trading routes from previous centuries.”

Vestiges of Cham towers unveiled in Da Nang
A ceramic piece of a collapsed Cham tower [Credit: Cong Thanh, VNS Photos]

Director of the city’s Culture, Sports and Tourism Department, Huynh Van Hung, said the city plans to submit procedure for relic status recognisation, and expand protected area for the Cham tower complex in Phong Le Village.

Archaeologist Lam My Dung said the city would have more relic sites that were believed to be 3,500 years old and more research and study should be carried out in the future.




Cultural researcher Vo Van Thang said the Cham towers in Phong Le Village should be preserved as a practical study site for students and young archaeologists as well as a tourism destination.

In 2012, a team of archaeologists from Da Nang’s Cham Sculpture Museum and Ha Noi’s University of Social Sciences and Humanities found a Cham tower foundation in the village – which is one of the biggest such structures ever found in Vietnam.

Vestiges of Cham towers unveiled in Da Nang
A roof tile with a human face [Credit: Cong Thanh, VNS Photos]

The Champa kingdom ruled in the central coast region between the 4th and 13th centuries, so many towers remained undiscovered in the area.

The French had partially excavated the tower 100 years ago. Some of the stone statues and relics were displayed at the Cham Sculpture Museum – one of the most visited sites in Da Nang City.

Phong Le Village, which is 10km from the city centre, is an historic village with temples, communal houses more than 100 years old, including a 150-year-old temple.

Different excavations in the garden of the Khue Bac Communal House in Da Nang in previous years discovered ceramics, stone axes, coins, mollusc shells dating back to the pre-Sa Huynh Culture (3,000-3,500 years-old).

Source: Vietnam Net [August 24, 2018]

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