Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Make Way for the Old Volume 57 Number 1, January/February 2004
by Jennifer Pinkowski

The Vietnamese Parliament has been filibustered by the discovery of an eleventh-century royal palace at the planned location of the body's new building in Hanoi. Construction has been postponed while the site is excavated.

Archaeologists discovered the foundations of a large palace, architectural pieces, a sophisticated drainage system, wells still bearing water, and millions of artifacts from five feudal dynasties--one Chinese, the others Vietnamese. The palace was part of the Thang Long citadel, an eleventh-century bulwark built when a Ly Dynasty monarch moved the capital of the Dai Viet state from Hoa Lu to what is now known as Hanoi. Some of the three million ceramic, bronze, porcelain, and gold artifacts date as far back as the seventh century A.D. Images of dragons and unicorns abound. Some appear to have come from China, Japan, and the Middle East.

Archaeologists also unearthed the Ly Dynasty-era skeletons of two children about eight years old near the palace's main foundation pillar. They speculated that the children had been buried alive to ward off bad spirits. In some rural areas of Vietnam the practice is thought to continue to this day--though with animals substituting for humans.

© 2004 by the Archaeological Institute of America