Ha Noi village opens archaeological museum

VietNamNet BridgeA museum of ancient pottery has been built in Ha Noi's Gia Lam District as a result of co-operation between villagers and archaeologists.

Togetherness: Archaeologist Nishimura Masanari introduces artefacts displayed at the newly opened Community Archaeology Museum in Kim Lan Village. (Photo: VNS)

The Community Archaeology Museum in Kim Lan Village, which was inaugurated on Tuesday, is the first example in the country of "community archaeology", in which local people play the main role in collecting items and building dossiers.

Perhaps the first indication that ancient artefacts existed in the area occurred decades ago when Nguyen Viet Hong, 77, first began picking up broken pieces of ceramics on the sandy banks of the Hong (Red) River.

His hobby began in 1996 after he overheard one of his nephews talking about some of the neighbourhood kids who had found a jar full of bronze coins while swimming in the river and had exchanged it for candy.

Hong felt nostalgic for the ancient relics and decided to look for them himself. He explained the deep historic value of each of the fragments to the children as day after day they followed in his footsteps to the river. They became the "archaeological team" of Kim Lan Village. Bystanders would watch the grey-haired old man and a small flood of kids chattering along behind him.

Over the years, he built up a collection of pottery dating back a thousand years. Other villagers also joined in the work and they, too, found many ancient pieces.

They wrote a letter reporting the situation to researchers at the Viet Nam Institute of Archaeology and the National History Museum.

The researchers, including archaeologist Nishimura Masanari from Japan, came to Kim Lan Village in 2000 and were astonished when they found artefacts that dated from as far back as the 7th century. Masanari was immediately attracted by Hong's works and his findings. Hong helped him complete PhD thesis on Vietnamese archaeology in 2006.

Masanari and the Vietnamese researchers joined Kim Lan villagers to collect more items and to collate and build dossiers for them. A joint project of community archaeology was launched.

The Japanese archaeologist then went back to his country and raised funds for the Kim Lan Museum.

"Local people everywhere can join the work of archaeologists," said Nguyen Giang Hai, vice director of the Viet Nam Institute of Archaeology.

"With knowledge and a professional approach, they can discover archaeological sites in their region and provide information and history for trained researchers," he said.

"That will extend their love and understanding for their tradition and locality."

VietNamNet/Viet Nam News