Scientists report discovering the oldest human fossil ever unearthed in Vietnam.
The skeletal remains that date back 10,000 years were found during an excavation by the Vietnam Institute of Archaeology at the Tam Chuc Pagoda Complex in Kim Bang District.
“This is the first-time human remains dating back 10,000 years have been discovered in Vietnam,” Mai Thanh Chung, director of the Ha Nam Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said.
While examining the site, researchers discovered three graves of children and adults, with the people buried in a kneeling position.
In addition to human remains, scientists also found mollusk shells and teeth bones of small animals in the excavation pit, which could have been food sources for ancient people, the VNExpress informs.
The team from the Institute of Archeology also made two intriguing discoveries at two caves in Kim Bang where they unearthed “prehistoric paleontological vestiges and material culture including animal fossils and reddish-brown rope pottery fragments belonging to the Dong Son culture.
Dong Son was a Bronze Age culture in ancient Vietnam centered in the Red River valley of northern Vietnam from 1000 BC until the first century AD.”
“Renowned for its large, ceremonial bronze drums and viewed by many as the foundational culture for an emerging Vietnamese civilization, bearers of the Dongson Culture were farming societies scattered throughout the Bac Bo region of Vietnam along its main river systems.
These communities were marked by sophisticated bronze-working industries, intensifying agricultural practices, and degrees of social differentiation and political complexity.
They were well positioned for interaction and exchange with others throughout the local area and further afield, connecting Dongson societies with counterparts elsewhere in present-day areas of central Vietnam, southern China, Laos, and Thailand,” Nam C. Kim writes in The Oxford Handbook of Early Southeast Asia.
When scientists explored the Tam Chuc complex, a famous spiritual destination in Vietnam and home to one of the largest pagodas in the world, they came across sea mollusk shells along with stream snails.
At the top of the mountain in the complex were pieces of pottery lying alongside mollusk pieces.
According to the institute, many Kim Bang relics date from the late Pleistocene to the late Holocene age, 10,000-12,000 years ago.
Researchers concluded that the district used to be a favorable area, inhabited by many ancient residents.
Future archaeological excavations can offer more information about people who lived here a long time ago, and there is no doubt that finding the oldest human skeleton in Vietnam is an exciting and significant discovery.
10,000-Year-Old Human Remains Discovered in Vietnam
Skeletal remains dating back 10,000 years have been found in the northern province of Ha Nam, marking the oldest human fossil ever unearthed in Vietnam.
Mai Thanh Chung, director of the Ha Nam Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, said at a meeting Thursday that the remains were found during an excavation carried out by the Vietnam Institute of Archaeology at the Tam Chuc Pagoda Complex in Kim Bang District last March.
Archaeologists discovered three graves of children and adults, with the people buried in a kneeling position.
“This is the first time human remains dating back 10,000 years have been discovered in Vietnam,” said Chung.
In addition to human remains, scientists also found in the excavation pit mollusk shells and teeth and bones of small animals, which could have been food sources for ancient people.
Also during the March excavation at two caves in Kim Bang, the Institute of Archeology discovered prehistoric paleontological vestiges and material culture, including animal fossils and reddish-brown rope pottery fragments belonging to the Dong Son culture.
Dong Son was a Bronze Age culture in ancient Vietnam centered in the Red River valley of northern Vietnam from 1000 BC until the first century AD.
Within the Tam Chuc complex, the archeologists discovered sea mollusk shells along with stream snails. At the top of the mountain in the complex, they found pieces of pottery lying alongside mollusk pieces.
Many of the Kim Bang relics date back from the late Pleistocene to the late Holocene, or 10,000-12,000 years ago, according to the institute.
Researchers concluded that the district used to be a favorable area, inhabited by many ancient residents.
A 2,000-Year-Old Antler In Vietnam May Be Oldest Music Instrument Of Its Kind
An unusual deer antler found in Vietnam may be one of the oldest string instruments ever unearthed in Southeast Asia.
Discovered at a site along the Mekong River, the 2,000-year-old instrument is like a single-stringed harp and may have been a great-grandparent to the complex musical instruments people still pluck today in Vietnam.
The artifact consists of a 35-centimeter-long piece of deer antler with a hole at one end for a peg, which was likely used to tune the string like the keys at the top of a guitar. While the string eroded away long ago, the object also features a bridge that was perhaps used to support the string.
Archaeologists from the Australian National University and Long An Museum in Vietnam recently described the fascinating objects in a new paper, reaching the conclusion that it was almost certainly a stringed instrument that was plucked to create music.
“No other explanation for its use makes sense,” Fredeliza Campos, lead researcher and PhD student from ANU, said in a statement seen by IFLScience.
The antler most likely came from a Sambar deer or an Indian hog deer, two species that are native to mainland Southeast Asia.
The team dated the object to 2,000 years old from Vietnam’s pre-Óc Eo culture along the Mekong River, which is exceptionally early for this kind of instrument.
“This stringed instrument, or chordophone, is one of the earliest examples of this type of instrument in Southeast Asia. It fills the gap between the region’s earliest known musical instruments – lithophones or stone percussion plates – and more modern instruments,” she added.
There’s evidence to suggest that many ancient cultures had a rich and lovely music culture, but it often escapes the archaeological record. Songs don’t stick around in rocky sediments, after all.
For instance, ancient Greece is one of the most studied portions of ancient history and we know enjoying music played a key part in their culture, as shown by the number of artworks showing instruments being tooted and plucked. However, the quest to discover what the music sounded like has been described as a “maddening enigma.”
To better understand the music cultures of ancient Vietnam, the researchers sifted through a catalog of over 600 bone artifacts found in the area. Their analysis indicates that this fashioned antler fits the bill and shows the emergence of contemporary Vietnamese musical instruments, such as the K’ný.
“The K’ný is a single-string bowed instrument that is uniquely controlled by the player’s mouth, which also acts as a resonator. It can play a wide variety of sounds and tones, much more than a chromatic scale you often hear on a piano,” added Campos.
The new study was published in the journal Antiquity this week.
An ancient human skeleton dating back about 2,300 years has been discovered at the Giong Ca Vo archaeological site in Ho Chi Minh City’s Can Gio district.
According to specialists, the skeleton belongs to a 1.65m-tall man with a high social ranking due to two animal fangs found on his neck.
The Giong Ca Vo archaeological site was discovered in 1993 and first excavated in 1994.
The total area of the site is 29,000sq.m, the centre of which is located on a red soil mound, about 1.5m higher than the surrounding area and covers an area of 7,000sq.m.
Prior to the discovery of the ancient skeleton, archaeologists excavated 185 burial jars and 13 earthen tombs, along with hundreds of precious relics made of various materials like precious stones, glass, and mollusks, at Giong Ca Vo archaeological site.
Some relics have been discovered for the first time at the site, such as animal-shaped earrings, three-pointed earrings or gold leaves, which contain historical, cultural values and especially the history of formation and development of this land over 2,000 years ago.
The archaeologists have determined that the age of the archaeological site is from 2,500BC to the early AD years.
Excavation results also show that the central area of Giong Ca Vo is divided into three phases: residence, burial and modern farming.
Based on the study of anthropological characteristics of the artefacts, Assoc. Prof. Nguyen Lan Cuong, General Secretary of the Vietnam Archaeological Association (VNAA), said that the area used to be occupied with indigenous groups, mainly natives of Dong Nai culture, who had cultural exchanges with the outside world.
Meanwhile, Assoc. Prof. Tong Trung Tin, Chairman of the VNAA, noted that this is the first time Vietnamese archaeologists have discovered such a density of burial jars at a relic site and the stratigraphic column is clarified with the continuous development from residence relics to burial relics.
He therefore requested HCM City and specialists to compile a dossier to submit to the Government to recognise Giong Ca Vo as a special national relic.
According to Dr Hsiao Chung Hung, an archaeology expert from the Australian National University, the Giong Ca Vo archaeological site is an important prehistoric archaeological site not only in Vietnam but also in Southeast Asia and Asia.
Located at the central point connecting the east and west, north and south regions, this site might have been a busy port and home to a large number of craftsmen and artisans about 2,500 years ago, as it is implied by the excavated items.
It was recognised as a national archaeological relic that needs to be protected in 2000 by the then Ministry of Culture and Information.
Currently, the artefacts excavated at the Giong Ca Vo archaeological site are displayed in a number of museums such as the National Museum of History in Hanoi, the Museum of Vietnamese History in HCM City and the Museum of Southern History and Culture.
The Mysterious Man-Made Caves Of Longyou: 10 Unanswered Questions
Located near the village of Shiyan Beicun in Zhejiang province, China lies the Longyou caves – an extensive, magnificent and rare ancient underground world considered in China as ‘the ninth wonder of the ancient world’.
The Longyou grottoes, which are thought to date back at least 2,000 years, represent one of the largest underground excavations of ancient times and are an enduring mystery that has perplexed experts from every discipline that has examined them. Scientists from around the world in the fields of archaeology, architecture, engineering, and geology have absolutely no idea how they were built, by whom, and why. First discovered in 1992 by a local villager, 36 grottoes have now been discovered covering a massive 30,000 square metres. Carved into solid siltstone, each grotto descends around 30 metres underground and contains stone rooms, bridges, gutters and pools.
There are pillars evenly distributed throughout the caves which are supporting the ceiling, and the walls, ceiling and stone columns are uniformly decorated with chisel marks in a series of parallel lines. Only one of the caves has been opened for tourism, chosen because of the stone carvings found inside which depict a horse, fish and bird. The Longyou caves truly are an enigma and here we will explore ten mysteries that are still unexplained despite more than two decades of research.
1. How were they constructed?
A rough estimation of the workload involved in building these five caves is awe-inspiring. The quantity of rock that would have been removed in the overall excavation of the grottoes is estimated to be nearly 1,000,000 cubic meters. Taking into account the average digging rate per day per person, scientists have calculated that it would take 1,000 people working day and night for six years to complete. These calculations are based purely on hard labour, but what they haven’t taken into account is the incredible care and precision of the sculptors, meaning that the actual workload would far surpass the theoretical estimation. As for how they were constructed and what tools were used, it is still unknown. No tools have been found in the area, and, as we will explore later, scientists still don’t know how they achieved such symmetry, precision, and similarity between the different caves.
2. No traces of construction
Despite their size and the effort involved in creating them, so far no trace of their construction or even their existence has been located in the historic record. Although the overall excavation involved almost a million cubic metres of stone, there is no archaeological evidence revealing where that quantity of stone went, and no evidence of the work. Moreover, there is not a single historic document that refers to them, which is highly unusual considering the sheer scale of the project. Their origin is a complete and utter mystery.
3. Why were the walls chiselled?
Every single one of the caves is covered, from floor to ceiling, in parallel lines that have been chiselled into virtually every surface.
The effect is a uniform pattern throughout the caves, which would have required immense manpower and endless hours to create. The question is why? Was such labour-intensive work purely for decoration?
Are the lines or patterns symbolic in some way? All that is currently known is that the markings are similar to those found on pottery housed in a nearby museum, which is dated between 500 and 800 BC.
4. Lack of fish
When the caves were first discovered, they were filled with water, which presumably had been there for a long period of time. They had to be pumped out in order to realise that these were not just like the other ‘bottomless ponds’ found within the area, but man-made structures. Most villages in southern China contain very deep ponds, which have been called “bottomless ponds” by generations of villagers. These ponds teem with fish, which are easily caught. However, after the first cave was pumped dry, not a single fish was to be seen, or any other sign of life.
5. How did the caves remain so well preserved?
One of the most interesting and challenging questions is how the caves have been able to keep their structural integrity for more than 2000 years. There are no signs of collapse, no piles of rubble, and no damage despite the fact that in some areas the walls are only 50 centimetres thick. Over the centuries, the area has gone through numerous floods, calamities and wars, the mountains have changed their appearance and exposed stones have been weathered, but inside the caves, the form, patterns and markings are still clear and precise – it is as though they were built yesterday.
6. How did the builders work in the dark?
Due to the great depths of the caves, some areas at the bottom, which are not exposed to the opening above, are pitch-black. Yet even those dark areas are decorated with thousands of parallel lines on the walls, columns, and ceiling. So how did the ancient people work in the dark?
According to Jia Gang, a Tongji University professor specializing in civil engineering:
“There should be lamps, because the cave’s mouth is very small, and the sunbeam could only shine in the cave at a certain angle during a certain period of time. As one goes deeper into the cave, the light becomes dimmer. At the cave’s bottom, which is usually dozen of meters from the mouth, one could hardly see anything.”
However, this was at least two millennia ago and nothing that could have been used for lighting has been found.
7. Were the caves meant to be connected?
All of the 36 grottoes are distributed across an area of only one square kilometre. Considering such a high density, one cannot help asking whether some grottoes were meant to be connected. What would be the purpose of making so many separate caves in such a tight area without connecting them?
In many areas, the walls between the caves are very thin, only 50 centimetres, but they were never linked so it appears they were intentionally kept apart. What’s more, many of the caves are almost identical to each other.
8. Who built them?
Nobody has any idea who built the caves. Some scientists have claimed that it was not possible or logical for such as mammoth job to have been undertaken by regular village people.
Only the emperor and the leaders could have organised such a huge project, like the construction of the Great Wall, which was built to defend against invasion from the outside. But if it was commissioned by an Emperor, why are there no historical records of its construction?
9. How did they achieve such precision?
The scale of the Longyou Grottoes is magnificent and momentous, the design was delicate and scientific, the construction was sophisticated, and the precision is indicative of superior craftsmanship. The model, pattern and style of each cave are extremely similar. Every grotto is like a grand hall. One side is steep and another side is 45% inclined. The four walls are straight; the edges and corners are clearly demarcated. The chiselling marks are uniform and precise. According to Yang Hongxun, an expert at the Archaeological Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences,
“At the bottom of each cave, the ancient [builders] wouldn’t be able to see what the others were doing in the next grotto. But the inside of each cave had to be parallel with that of the other, or else the wall would be holed through. Thus the measuring apparatus should have been very advanced. There must have been some layout about the sizes, locations, and the distances between the caves beforehand.”
With the help of modern equipment and methods, the investigators measured the sizes of the walls and surprisingly found that the overall construction is extremely accurate. The walls between the caves are of the same thickness in different sections. So how did they achieve this precision? What were their methods?
10. What were they used for?
Following extensive investigations and study, scientists and scholars have attempted to put forward explanations for the grottoes, but none so far provide a convincing explanation for why they were built and what they were used for. Some archaeologists have suggested that the grottoes were the tombs of old emperors, emperor halls, or places for storage. But this interpretation is far-fetched. No funeral objects or tombs have been found and no artefacts left behind. If it were used like an emperor’s palace, the grottoes would have been designed differently with separate rooms for different purposes like entertaining, meeting, and sleeping, but no evidence can be found of this and no traces of habitation have been found.
Another hypothesis is that it was used for mining and extracting some type of mineral resource. However, mining operations would have required equipment and apparatus to extract the rocks and transport them. Again, no traces of this have been found, nor any evidence of where the rocks were taken. And of course, if the caves were just for mining, why create such intricate decorations on the walls, columns and ceilings?
Finally, some have suggested that the grottoes were the places for troops to be stationed and that an emperor of the past wanted to keep his soldiers out of view in order to keep his war preparations secret. However, these caves could not have been built in a short period of time. They would have taken many, many years to build so it is unlikely to have been done in preparation for war, which tends to come about much more quickly. Furthermore, there are no signs of people having stayed in the caves. Despite decades of research, very few answers have emerged to explain the enigma of the Longyou caves. Our ancient ancestors have achieved many wondrous things, but this truly is an unexplained mystery.
Prehistoric Artifacts Discovered in a Vietnam Cave
Over 700 prehistoric artefacts have been discovered inside Tham Un cave in the northern mountainous province of Bac Kan’s Ba Be district. The discovery resulted from a fact-finding trip undertaken by the Institute of Archeology, the Vietnam Archeology Association, and the Bac Kan Museum.
Combing the entire cave, their team found traces of ancient people almost everywhere. Among the artefacts discovered were stone tools made from river pebbles.
According to Associate Professor, Dr Trinh Nang Chung, based on the overall study of the relics as well as the structure and age of the sediment, researchers believe that Tham Un was a residence of many generations of prehistoric people.
Its early inhabitants belonged to the late Bac Son Culture dating back 5,000 to 6,000 years, while the late inhabitants were from the Late Neolithic – Early Metal Ages dating back about 4,000 years.
This is a very important prehistoric relic cave, Chung stated.
Archaeologists are planning to excavate the site in the near future.
Neolithic site of Monte D’Accoddi: Is This European Megalithic Altar the Oldest Pyramid in the World?
Monte d’Accoddi is a Neolithic archaeological site in northern Sardinia, located in the territory of Sassari. The site consists of a massive raised stone platform thought to have been an altar.
It was constructed by the Ozieri culture or earlier, with the oldest parts dated to around 4,000–3,650 BC.
We think immediately about the most similar known examples: the Mesopotamian ziqqurat or the first step pyramid of Djoser in Egypt. But is it possible that these monumental types, thousands of miles away, have common ancestry?
The site was discovered in 1954 in a field owned by the Segni family. The original structure was built by the Ozieri culture or earlier c. 4,000–3,650 BC and has a base of 27 m by 27 m and probably reached a height of 5.5 m.
It culminated in a platform of about 12.5 m by 7.2 m, accessible via a ramp. No chambers or entrances to the mound have been found, leading to the presumption it was an altar, a temple or a step pyramid.
It may have also served an observational function, as its square plan is coordinated with the cardinal points of the compass.
The initial Ozieri structure was abandoned or destroyed around 3000 BC, with traces of fire found in the archaeological evidence.
Around 2800 BC the remains of the original structure were completely covered with a layered mixture of earth and stone, and large blocks of limestone were then applied to establish a second platform, truncated by a step pyramid (36 m × 29 m, about 10 m in height), accessible by means of a second ramp, 42 m long, built over the older one.
This second temple resembles contemporary Mesopotamian ziggurats and is attributed to the Abealzu-Filigosa culture.
Archaeological excavations from the chalcolithic Abealzu-Filigosa layers indicate the Monte d’Accoddi was used for animal sacrifice, with the remains of sheep, cattle, and swine recovered in near equal proportions.
It is among the earliest known sacrificial sites in Western Europe, providing insight into the development of ritual in prehistoric society, and earning it a designation as “the most singular cultic monument in the early Western Mediterranean”.
The site appears to have been abandoned again around 1800 BC, at the onset of the Nuragic age.
Based on the evidence of architecture, ritual deposits and diagnostic pottery, G. and M. Webster argued, in 2017 & 2019, for the monument’s status as a product of a migration event (probably exilic) initiated from Mesopotamia, during the first half of the 4th millennium B.C.
This view is now considered obsolete and scholars are focusing on a different interpretation of local evolution.
The surroundings of the Monte d’Accoddi have been excavated in the 1960s, and have provided the signs of a considerable sacred centre.
Near the south-eastern corner of the monument there is a dolmen, and across the ramp stands a considerable menhir, one of several standing stones which was formerly found in the vicinity.
The foundations of several small structures (possibly residential) were excavated, and several mysterious carved stones.
The most impressive of these is a large boulder carved into the shape of an egg and then cut through on a subtle curving three-dimensional line.
The Largest Cave ever found on earth. so big, it has its own ecosystem
The Son Doong Cave in Vietnam is the largest cave passage in the world. This huge and intricate cave system was created by water that percolated down from a rainforest above, ultimately carving into the rock.
Deep inside the cave sits a flourishing jungle, which grows 200 meters below ground level in an area where the cave roof has collapsed.
Home to an impressive ecosystem with a dangerous system of pathways, this rainforest is quite the destination. To date, only explorers and very few tourists have laid eyes on it. Would you dare to be one of them?
An Accidental Discovery
For a cave that’s located inside of an UNESCO listed park, Vietnam’s Phong Nha-Ke Bang, it’s quite shocking that it was first discovered only 3 decades ago – on accident by a local farmer.
In 1990, while seeking shelter from a storm in the jungle, Ho Khanh stumbled upon this 3-million-year-old natural wonder and reported it to the British Caving Research Association.
Unfortunately, however, Khanh lost track of the cave’s exact location and it took almost 2 more decades for Son Doong cave to be rediscovered.
Unbelievably, in 2008, Ho Khanh stumbled upon the elusive cave once again! Luckily he remembered the location this time around and experts finally began exploring, eventually determining Son Doong to be the largest cave in the world.
Inside of a Rainforest, Inside of a Cave
Appropriate to its record-breaking size, Son Doong also houses an impressive ecosystem.
Not only does it have its own localized weather system, but this massive cave is home to the largest stalagmite ever found, nicknamed “Hand of Dog,” and a cave floor littered with rare limestone pearls.
But all of that isn’t even close to everything Son Doong has to offer — this fascinating cave system has its very own rainforest, the Garden of Edam.
With time, collapsed ceilings have created holes called dolines, allowing lush foliage to grow and creating a remote and dangerously inaccessible jungle.
Son Doong’s rainforest is home to flying foxes and endangered tigers, as well as rare langurs and trees as tall as buildings.
On bright days sunbeams stream through the dolines, illuminating carpets of moss below on a section of the cave nicknamed “Watch Out for Dinosaurs.”
Since 2012, one tour company called Oxalis has been taking a strict number of tourists per year into Son Doong — a treacherous five-day trek that only a lucky few will ever experience.