Oc Eo - Ba The archaeological site is located in the southwestwards of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, in Oc Eo town, Thoai Son district, An Giang province. It’s 40km away from Long Xuyen city, An Giang province to the northeast and 40km away from Rach Gia city, Kien Giang province to the southwest. This property has about 40 cultural relics of various types of architectural relics, religious architecture, burial relics, residence sites... which have been discovered, surveyed and excavated from the early 40s of the 20th century to the end of the 20th century so far.
Oc Eo - Ba The archaeological site has a total protected area of 433.2 ha which is divided into Zone A on the slopes and foot of Ba The mountain is 143.9 ha, Zone B in Oc Eo field 289.3 ha. Some typical monuments that have been excavated and preserved are as follows:
1.1. Zone A
1.1.1. Monuments in the area of Linh Son Pagoda
Linh Son Pagoda on the eastern slopes of Ba The mountain currently keeps two unique artifacts of the Oc Eo culture, two ancient stone steles and a statue of Vishnu dating back to the 5th century AD, ranked at the national level in 1988. The two ancient steles made of black slate, discovered in 1879 at the location of Linh Son pagoda, of which only one stele is carved with Sanskrit characters. The stone statue discovered in July,1912 is a four-armed statue of Vishnu made of dark gray sandstone, about 3.3 meters high, with a round cylindrical hat. After bringing it back between the two stone steles, the locals converted it into a sitting Buddha statue to worship according to Vietnamese customs, Linh Son Pagoda is therefore also known as Four-Handed Buddha Temple.
Through many investigations, surveys and archaeological excavations of French and Vietnamese scholars, especially the excavations in 1998-2001 and 2017, it has been shown that in the ground of Linh Son pagoda area contains many architectural monuments of many periods. Especially they discovered the wall system dating from the 5th to the 9th century, built of bricks, tends to continue to develop in the center under the foundation of Linh Son pagoda, this is the evidence of a large, solid structure that once existed and is now buried. In the temple grounds, there are many types of relics such as pottery vases, pottery pots, architectural decorative tiles with special features in the art of decorative frills of the tiles; grinding tables, rollers, pillars, woven panels, steps, door posts... are made of stone dating to the architecture.
1.1.2. Nam Linh Son Tu site
Nam Linh Son Tu site is 60m north of Linh Son pagoda, with a roof protecting the entire excavated area, ranked at the national level in 2002.
In 1998-1999, the relic was excavated, revealing the entire architecture with a plan spread over an area of more than 350m2. The architecture is divided into many compartments with different sizes and areas; with courtyard and sewer lines consisting of 1 or 2 floors, built of brick or stone. Nam Linh Son Tu relic dating from the 1st century AD and continued to exist until the 9th century after many constructions, this is a type of religious architecture closely related to archaeological relics at Linh Son Pagoda, Linh Son Bac, Go Sau Thuan. In particular, this is the first time that cremated jars have been discovered in an Oc Eo cultural site on the mountainside which was buried long before the construction of Nam Linh Son Tu architecture.
1.1.3. Linh Son Bac site
The relic is 190m to the south of Linh Son Pagoda and discovered in 1944, then excavated in 1993, 2003, 2012 and mainly excavated in 2018-2020 with an area of 5,700m2. The results revealed a system of the architecture of many historical periods correspond to the cultural layers with stable chronological order with typical relics. Through field research, early architectural layers have been established dating from the 2nd – 3rd centuries to the later periods, lasting up to about the 9th century. From that result, it showed that Linh Son Bac relic is one of the types of Hindu temple architecture distributed in the area of Ba The mountain, has an important position in the overall ancient architectural monuments in the surrounding area of Linh Son pagoda, dating from around the 2nd to 9th centuries AD.
1.1.4. Go Cay Me site (Go Sau Thuan)
Go Cay Me relic is also known as Go Sau Thuan which connects with the central architecture at Linh Son Pagoda to the west.
In 2001, excavation at Go Cay Me site revealed a complex set of walls built of reused bricks, most of which were built on a granite foundation along with fragments of coffee and vases, pottery pots and many animal bones, this is a settlement site. Especially, the comprehensive excavation in 2017 - 2020 has discovered brick-stone embankment walkways, in the middle of earth-shattering and many brick structures spread around. Based on the distribution plan and the shape of the remaining architectural foundations, it is initially assumed that this is a peripheral architecture that functions as a gate and path to the central architecture at Linh Son Pagoda.
Along with the previously discovered residential sites, Go Sau Thuan relic is estimated to have lasted from the beginning of AD to the 10th-13th centuries. In which, the early residential period took place from the 2nd – 6th centuries, architectural construction began around the end of the 6th to the 12th century, through many different construction times.
1.1.5. Go Ut Tranh site
Go Ut Tranh is about 300m away from Linh Son Pagoda to the north. In 2011, excavation with a total area of 640m2 discovered an overall architecture built of brick and stone including three main temples in the yin and yang style, built in a straight line and equally spaced along the north-south axis, with the doors facing the direction east, dating from around the 7th century.
This is a generally religious architecture in the form of a Hindu temple from the point of view of the "Trinity of Unity", including: the northern architecture represents Brahma (the Creator), the southern architecture is Vishnu (the Conserver), the central architecture is Shiva (the Destroyer). It is different from other god-worshiping structures (usually there is only one temple and worshiping only one God) in the area, and is the only one of this type discovered in Oc Eo-Ba The.
1.1.6. Go Sau Thang site
It is about 400m north away from Linh Son Pagoda and is a quadrilateral mound nearly square with a scale of about 20m - 22m each. Through the January 2016 survey, it was determined that Go Sau Thang was a relic of Hindu temple mainly made of bricks with a wide floor on the outside of the wall, dating from the 7th to the 9th centuries A.D.
1.2. Zone B
1.2.1. Go Cay Thi site
Go Cay Thi site is about 500m southwest of Go Oc Eo relic, about 500m northeast of Go Giong Cat and 2,000m northwest of the archaeological site at Linh Son pagoda. The monument was classified at the national level in 2002, with a roof to permanently protect the entire excavated area.
The relic was discovered in 1942 and excavated in 1944 (designated Architecture A). In 1999, open-pit excavation was conducted, through which two separate structures were discovered in the same area, so archaeologists named them Go Cay Thi A and B.
- Go Cay Thi A: Through excavation of the entire architecture, a plan of 22m wide in the north-south direction, 24.54m long in the east direction revealed. The monument facing east consists of 36 brick foundation walls with many side structures inside: front hall, main hall, large and small compartments... This architecture has a total area of 488.88m2 which is a type of temple that is also imbued with the type of Hindu architecture. However, when Buddhism developed, bronze Buddha statues were also brought here to worship. The age of the architecture is estimated to be around the 5th – 6th centuries AD.
- Go Cay Thi B: this is a low mound 22m north of Go Cay Thi A. In 2010, the architectural foundation of Go Cay Thi B was thoroughly excavated, revealing the type of brick-stone architecture, consisting of two walls built around a rectangular foundation covered with sandy soil. There is a perception that this is a cremation grave or a worshiping hole of the inhabitants of Oc Eo.
According to archaeologists, both Go Cay Thi A and B architectures were built on the residential cultural layer dating from the 1st to 7th centuries AD.
1.2.2. Go Oc Eo site
Go Oc Eo site is about 2500m away from Ba The foothill to northwest, and 500m north of Go Cay Thi.
The relic was surveyed in April 1944 (designated Architecture B, C, D) and discovered plentiful and diverse architectural foundations and relics. In 1998-1999, digging and drilling for geological exploration showed that this archeological culture layer was denser on the banks of Lung Lon, right next to Go Oc Eo to the east. In 2001-2002, 2017-2020, opening more exploration pits, recorded many traces of small-scale stone and brick architecture scattered in the pit. Artifacts found including colorful glass beads, many pieces of pottery of various types, a large vertical wooden pillar and traces of many decomposed wooden columns, ashes and bones of animals…
Synthesized from excavation results and archaeological research, based on the stratigraphy of relics and artifacts discovered, the researchers determined that Go Oc Eo was in an early stage (about the 1st century to the 3rd century BC), this is a residential site - architecture of stilt houses. While residing on embankment mounds and in the later period (about the 5th to 7th century), this is a large-scale concentrated craft workshop specializing in manufacturing glass jewelry. This is also the area that records the first traces of coastal residence of ancient inhabitants in the Mekong Delta. The presumptive chronology spans from about the 1st century BC to the 7th century AD. As a residential relic, through the impact of nature and humans, most of the architectures in Go Oc Eo site are only traces in the cultural strata.
1.2.3. Go Giong Cat site
Go Giong Cat site is 1500m from the foot of Ba The mountain to the west, 500m from Go Cay Thi to the southwest. In 1944, L. Malleret excavated and revealed a brick and stone structure, called Architecture K on a large scale.
Excavations in 2001-2002 and 2017-2020 have identified an ancient canal with many remnants of the activities of the ancient inhabitants of Oc Eo. Relics of residence discovered in the south of the mound carry many early elements with rough pottery pieces, new decorative patterns compared to the Oc Eo culture pottery in the whole Southern region. To the east of the mound, traces of an architecture consisting of brick floors, brick walls and stone foundations were found on a large scale and different from those previously excavated such as Go Cay Thi, Nam Linh Son Tu. The date of the Go Giong Cat relic is estimated at the beginning of AD and lasted until about the 7th century.
Since the cultural sites excavated by Louis Malleret of École française d'Extrême-Orient (EFEO) in 1944 with architectural symbols from A to S in the Oc Eo field, many artifacts have been collected into large collections of materials such as stone, pottery, glass, metal, gold, gems, etc. They are currently kept and displayed in many history museums in the country. Combined with the aerial map, L. Malleret predicted the 450ha-wide Oc Eo ancient town contains dozens of canals connecting Oc Eo with the surrounding areas with hundreds of kilometers long. Traces of ancient canals are still recorded on GIS remote sensing maps.
From the remaining physical manifestations of Oc Eo - Ba The archaeological site, it has proven the existence of a culture associated with the kingdom of Funan - a rich and powerful country in Southeast Asia from the beginning of AD until the 7th century. The archaeological site of Oc Eo - Ba The was the main transshipment point between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean through the Kra Strait in southern Thailand at that time. This property contains historical, cultural and scientific values typical for one of the ancient civilizations that have disappeared.
Criterion (ii): In early centuries AD, for the first time in history a world economic system was established through several Asian trade routes connecting China, Southeast Asia through India, the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean … In that system, Oc Eo-Ba The archaeological site has emerged as an area with the most developed production and trade level in Southeast Asia, linking trade between the West and the East.
Oc Eo ancient town with large craft workshops, highly technical level, both multi-disciplinary and specialized, especially jewelry, glass processing, gems... Products produced here have been consumed to the countries, regions and territories that today are South Thailand, North Malaysia, Java, Central Vietnam, South China, Korea... This is also a point of intersection, cultural and technical acculturation of the countries which originate from India (culture, science and technology, art, religion, writing...) and other countries in the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean, Pacific... through products of trade and international relations during the flourishing period of Funan Kingdom from the 2nd to the 7th centuries.
Oc Eo - Ba The archaeological site used to be a place to create many new products on the basis of inheriting the metal culture (late stage) in place and absorbing foreign cultural elements such as the art in the religious architectural works - brick-stone-wood palaces, cremated tombs and jars; techniques of digging, embanking trenches, walls of residential areas, building a large irrigation system in the coastal plain...
Criterion (iii): In the relatively separate natural and social space, the indigenousness of the Oc Eo culture has been formed in a long process of movement and development from the 2nd – 1st centuries BC to the "Oc Eo post-stage” about 8th-9th century AD. That locality has been shown through tools for making pottery, wood and stone products; construction techniques of religious architectures, types of houses; forms of burial of remains... Many artifacts show a high level of artistic thought such as wooden Buddha statues, sandstone God statues; pottery products with motifs, stone slabs with carved patterns and inscriptions... in which wooden standing Buddha statues are typical features of a distinct Oc Eo art style.
The relics and artifacts in Oc Eo - Ba The archaeological site contain the unique values of an indigenous civilization combined with the ancient Indian civilization to create the Oc Eo culture as the foundation as well as the earliest and most representative development of the Funan kingdom which now no longer exists.
Criterion (v): Living in the low plains, in close contact with the sea, seasonally flooded, saline intrusion... the ancient Oc Eo community knew how to adapt to the environment, properly applying the laws of nature to survive in both physical and mental activities.
With wooden stilts, beams, railings, etc, collected along with many traces of decomposing wood in the Oc Eo field, it has clearly demonstrated the traditionally residential form of the ancient Oc Eo inhabitants who mainly settled on wooden stilts around the high mounds at the foot of the mountain. They have dug and filled many canals to exploit the cropland according to the seasons. On the high mounds, mountain slopes often have religious architectures, residences of clergy and nobles made of bricks, stones, wood, etc. They travel by boat, raft, canoe along canals or to the sea, carrying necessary items for river life such as cooking stove, pottery drinking bottles, fishing nets... International trade has been proven through artifacts found such as wooden boat pieces, copper Roman gold coins and medals, Han bronze mirrors, Persian lamps; glass materials, precious metals imported from India and Mediterranean countries further clarify the capacity of sea exploitation, turning goods through the sea trade route into a spearhead economy in the developing process of the ancient town of Oc Eo.
The lives of the people of Oc Eo are closely related to the river and coastal environment which is very vulnerable to climate change, such as the marine transgression in the 7th – 8th centuries that submerged arable land, deposited canals, destroyed the residences, production facilities, temple architecture... Salt crystals still remaining in many brick layers of Go Cay Thi relic has proved that. Along with the shift of the maritime route from Oc Eo to Palembang - the capital of the kingdom of Srivijaya (Sumatra - Malaysia) since the 7th century, causing the ancient town of Oc Eo to lose its key transit position, saltwater intrusion is also one of the main reasons for the permanent decline of what was once the international port city, the inter-world center of Funan kingdom.
This is a relic discovered since the 40s of the twentieth century, experiencing many changes due to the impacts of wars, changes in the natural environment and the development of social life and residents in the heritage area that many architectural works, graves, residences, production areas and ancient relics have been buried or destroyed. However, through focusing on scientific research to determine the space and value of the relic along with effective policies and people's awareness, the appearance of the Oc Eo archaeological site is basically determined as well as zoning protection in order to preserve and promote the value of this property according to the "Planning on preservation and restoration of the special national site Oc Eo - Ba The" approved by the Government of Socialist Republic of Vietnam according to Decision No. 115/QD-TTg dated January 23, 2021.
Scientists have complied with the excavation standards according to the requirements of preserving the original relics and artifacts in the overall cultural space of the Oc Eo - Ba The archaeological site. In general, the subjective impacts on heritage such as excavation and protection planning are seriously planned; the solutions and processes are all aimed at both researching and determining the value and preserving the originality of heritage values. Architectural relics have been discovered that the Vietnamese government is interested in repairing, embellishing, building roofs and walls on the entire excavated area. Thousands of antiques were seized, purchased and brought to museums for display and preservation including precious collections. In addition, Oc Eo Culture Museum has been completely built since 2016 in Oc Eo town which is a place to collect, store and preserve hundreds of original artifacts with many collections of typical value.
Since the scientific publications of L. Malleret (1959-1962) on Oc Eo culture, there have been hundreds of domestic and foreign scientific works on this culture and Oc Eo - Ba The archeological site has been announced; many in-depth seminars were organized (1984, 2004, 2009); hundreds of international scientists and archaeologists (France, the United States, Japan, Italy, India, Korea, Russia, Australia, Thailand ...) have come to Oc Eo-Ba The archaeological site to study and research.
In 1997-2002, École française d'Extrême-Orient (EFEO) cooperated with Vietnamese archaeologists to carry out fieldworks, surveys and archaeological excavations on a large scale from the slopes of Ba The mountain to the Oc Eo field. Implementing the project of Researching Oc Eo-Ba The archaeological site, Nen Chua (Oc Eo Culture) of the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences from 2017 to 2020, there have been more than 10 archaeological sites excavated continuously on a large scale.
Regarding protection and management requirements, in 2012 Oc Eo - Ba The archaeological site was ranked by the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam as a special national site; in January 2021 there was a Decision on planning to preserve and restore relics for the entire 433.2 ha within the special national site. The Management Board of Oc Eo Cultura sites in An Giang province was established in May 2013 to perform specialized management tasks in order to protect and promote the relic. In the protective buffer zone, high-rise buildings are not built. At the same time, the locality continues to propagate widely among the people the Laws and Decrees of the Government such as Vietnamese Cultural Heritage Law, the Tourism Law, the Law on Environmental Protection... so that people can participate in protection and promoting the outstanding global values of Oc Eo - Ba The archaeological site in the region and all over the world.
With the criterion for selecting comparative sites prescribed by UNESCO, it is possible to compare Oc Eo - Ba The archaeological site with the following world heritages:
1. My Son Sanctuary - Quang Nam (Vietnam) - compare criterion (ii) and (iii): My Son Sanctuary is a typical example of cultural interference with an indigenous society adapted to external cultural influences, especially Hindu art and architecture of the Indian subcontinent. The Kingdom of Champa is an important phenomenon in the political and cultural history of Southeast Asia, vividly illustrated by the My Son monument.
2. Hoi An ancient town - Quang Nam (Vietnam) - compare criterion (ii) and (v): Hoi An is the only evidence of the colonization of Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese people that bear unique cultural and artistic values in the trade process from the 15th to the 19th century. Hoi An is an exceptionally well-preserved example of Asia's traditional trading port in the face of the challenges of the natural environment.
3. Angkor (Cambodia) - compare criterion (ii), (iii): The Khmer Empire in the 9th to the 14th centuries covers most of Southeast Asia. The influence of Khmer art as it developed in Angkor was a profound influence and played a defining role in the political and cultural development of the region. All that remains of that civilization is a rich legacy of massive brick and stone structures.
4. Baekje Historical Site (Korea) – compare criterion (ii), (iii): Baekje was an ancient kingdom in the south of the Korean peninsula, which existed from 18 BC to 660 AD. Archaeological and architectural sites dating from the 5th to 7th centuries represent the intersection of the ancient East Asian kingdoms of Korea, China and Japan in the development of construction techniques in cities, temples, mausoleums, fortresses... and the spread of Buddhism contributed to the formation of special evidence for the unique culture, religion and art of the Baekje kingdom.
5. Archaeological Border complex of Hedeby and the Danevirke (Germany) – compare criterion (iii): This Archaeological Border complex includes 22 archeological sites dated from 6th century to 12th century, it comprises structures, settlements, cemeteries and harbors on the Juland peninsula. Because of its unique situation between the Frankish Empire in the South and the Danish Kingdom in the North, Hedeby became a trading hub between continental Europe and Scandinavia and between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. This archaeological site is the main trading center between Western and Northern Europe, especially the exchange and trade between peoples of different cultural traditions in Europe from the 8th to the 11th century, it has become a key site for the interpretation of economic, social and historical developments in Europe during the Viking age.