Vietnamese archaeologists unearth 3,000-year-old cemetery hidden in a cavern

By VnExpress   March 31, 2017 | 07:00 am GMT+7

The expedition team found dozens of archaeological relics, mainly pottery, stone tools, human teeth and bone fragments.

An ancient cemetery, dated back to some 3,000 years ago, has been unearthed in the northern mountainous province of Tuyen Quang, with some of the most intriguing finds including human skeletal fragments stored in ceremic pottery, VietnamPlus reported.

The cemetery, hidden inside a limestone cavern in Na Hang District, was suggested to belong to people living in the Iron Age (1,300BC - 600AD), based on the historic artifacts and cultural signs found inside, said Trinh Nang Chung, head of the team from Vietnam's Institute of Archaeology.

His team was notified of the cavern by the Institute of Archeology and Museum of Tuyen Quang, which discovered vestiges of the prehistoric cemetery during a March excavation.

Initial results showed the vestiges were mostly found near the entrance of Na Tham, a 150-square-meter cavern located at 460 meters (1,500 feet) above sea level, with low ceiling and not many stalactites inside. Archaeologists found a 0.4-meter-thick layer (strata) of soft and high humidity sediments formed by clayey soil, along with some historic artifacts, about 0.3 meter below the cavern surface.

The team discovered dozens of archaeological relics, mainly pottery, few stone tools, human teeth and bone fragments, under a place sheathed with a stone slab above.

Many pieces of pottery, which has an average mouth size of 25-30 cm, were found and most of them are decorated with twisted cord patterns. Archaeologists also found human teeth and bones inside a ceramic shard, along with a stone grinding table.

Notably, there were ceramic potshards decorated with small circles pattern that is commonly seen on the pottery of Go Mun culture, which dates back to the late stage of Bronze Age and the early part of the Iron Age (1,000BC - 700BC).

Chung said the discovery of the ancient cemetery was the first in Tuyen Quang Province. Ancient inhabitants were believed to bury the deceased at the cavern, inside ceremic pottery which they marked with slabs of stone on top. 

The authorities are planning to study and excavate the cavern in the future.