SUNDASIA is exploring how prehistoric tropical communities adapted to cycles of coastal inundation over the last 60,000 years in northern Vietnam, and how these data can help inform models and responses to modern climate-induced rising seas in this region.

This multi-disciplinary research project is focused on the archaeological, geological and ecological history of the Tràng An massif World Heritage site, Ninh Binh, Vietnam.

SUNDASIA is based at Queen’s University Belfast. Principal collaborating institutions in the UK are: Bournemouth University, University of Cambridge, Oxford University Museum of Natural History, and Queen Mary University of London; and in Vietnam: the Vietnam Institute of Geosciences and Mineral Resources, Tràng An Management Board, Ninh Binh Provincial People’s Committee, the Xuan Truong Enterprise, and the Vietnam Institute of Archaeology.


• 30th March, 2023 – A third infant has been born to the Delacour’s langur troop on Ngoc Island, Tràng An.

• 1st March, 2023 – Ben Utting accepts a Peter Buck Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. See Ben’s Researchgate profile here. Congratulations Ben!

• 8th February, 2023 – SUNDASIA publication: Rabett, R.J., Morimoto, R., Kahlert, T., Stimpson, C.M., O’Donnell, S., Nguyen Thi Mai Huong, Bui Van Manh, Holmes, R., Pham Sinh Khanh, Tran Tan Van, Coward, F. Prehistoric pathways to Anthropocene Adaptation: Evidence from the Red River Delta, Vietnam. PLoS One 18(2): e0280126. Available here.

• 30th December, 2022 – Fourteen 1/5-scale museum-grade models, produced by the UK sculptor Neave 3D for SUNDASIA, were received by the Tràng An Management Board for public display in a forthcoming exhibition of the property’s cultural and natural heritage. This work is one of the key deliverables on an AHRC Follow-On Funding grant for impact.

• 12th December, 2022 – Ryan Rabett presented UN SDG-related work from the SUNDASIA project to a leadership delegation from the Ninh Binh Provincial Party. Several key topics were raised by the delegation, for which further archaeological, palaeoecological and conservation research will have direct bearing over the coming years. The meeting report laid out next steps for research collaboration and sustainable development, with links also to multiple outcomes from the COP15 UN Convention on Biological Diversity (19 December 2022).

Meeting with Ninh Binh Provincial Party leadership

• 20th September, 2022 – Tour guide training and museum curation training for 70 staff completed by the Tràng An Management Board, funded as part of the SUNDASIA project’s AHRC Follow-On Funding grant for impact.



• September, 2022 – Second Delacour’s langur infant born to the trial reintroduction troop on Ngoc Island, Tràng An.

• 3rd August, 2022 – Ben Utting passes his PhD viva with minor corrections! Thesis title: Exploring prehistoric technology at the Tràng An Landscape Complex, Ninh Bình Province, Vietnam.

• 22nd June, 2022 – SUNDASIA publication: Utting, B. Geochemical fingerprinting of Pleistocene stone tools from the Trang An Landscape Complex, Ninh Binh Province, Vietnam. PLoS One 17(6): e0269658. Available here.

• 16th December, 2021 – SUNDASIA publication: Rabett, R., Coward, F., Tran Tan Van et al. Human Adaptation to Coastal Evolution: Late Quaternary evidence from Southeast Asia (SUNDASIA) – A report on the third year of the project. Vietnam Archaeology 15 (2020): 33-63. Available here.

• 28th October, 2021 – Media announcement of the first Delacour’s langur infant born (300g) to the trial reintroduction troop on Ngoc Island in Tràng An.

• 20th September, 2021 – A Conservation Paleobiology Research Highlight note by Chris Stimpson on SUNDASIA’s water deer paper is published in the Conservation Paleobiology Network newsletter, issue 9.

• 30th June, 2021 – SUNDASIA publication: Stimpson, C., O’Donnell, S., Nguyen Thi Mai Huong, Holmes, R., Utting, B., Kahlert, T., Rabett, R. Confirmed archaeological evidence of water deer in Vietnam: relics of the Pleistocene or a shifting baseline? Royal Society Open Science 8: 210529.

• 8th June, 2021 – SUNDASIA publication: Kahlert, T., O’Donnell, S., Stimpson, C., Nguyen Thi Mai Huong, Hill, E., Utting, B., Rabett, R. Mid-Holocene coastline reconstruction from geomorphological sea level indicators in the Tràng An World Heritage Site, Northern Vietnam. Quaternary Science Reviews 263 – institutional access online here

• 10th May, 2021 – The UK Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) awards impact/outreach ‘Follow-On’ Funding to Queen’s University Belfast for the Portrayals of Tràng An project that will showcase SUNDASIA research outcomes as part of a new exhibition development in Tràng An.

• 19th November, 2020 – SUNDASIA (Open Access) publication: Nadler, T., Rabett, R., O’Donnell, S., Nguyen Thi Mai Huong. Delacour’s langur (Trachypithecus delacouri) reintroduction program: A preliminary report on the trial release into the Trang An UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ninh Binh Province, Vietnam. Vietnamese Journal of Primatology 3(2): 39-48 – available here.

• 18th November, 2020 – Online event. Ryan Rabett participated in the Past Matters: Climate Emergency and Action. This event was organised by the Heritage Hub at Queen’s University Belfast and is one of a host of events in the Culture X Climate virtual forum for arts, culture and heritage-based climate action.

• 29th September, 2020 – SUNDASIA is awarded a UKRI CoA costed extension to 31st March 2021. 

• 2nd September, 2020 – Review published by Ryan Rabett on the recent book: Tropical Forests in Prehistory, History and Modernity, by Patrick Roberts, 2019. Oxford: Oxford University Press; ISBN: 978-0-19-881849-6 hardback £85. xvi+350 pp. Cambridge Archaeological Journal.  A read-only authorised copy of the review can be found here.

• 27-28th August, 2020 – Three Delacour’s langur are transported to an island in Tràng An amid national media coverage, beginning a trial re-introduction of this Critically Endangered species to the World Heritage Site. Details of the initiative and SUNDASIA’s close involvement can be found in the Biodiversity section of this site (image: courtesy of T. Nadler – reproduced with permission).

2 langur transport

• 29th July, 2020 – SUNDASIA has joined the PANTROPICA research network as an affiliated project. This dedicated website forum is intended to bring together researchers and stakeholders working across the tropics in the fields of Archaeology, Anthropology, Palaeoecology, Earth Sciences, History, Climate Science, Ecology, and Conservation. Congratulations to Bec, Patrick and the team on this super initiative!

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• 28th July, 2020 – SUNDASIA team member Rachael Holmes (University of Leicester) wrote an article for The Conversation entitled: What will COVID-19 look like to geologists in the far future. Read Rachael’s article here.

• 8th July 2020 – Congratulations to Liam Og Magill (Archaeology & Palaeoecology, Queen’s University Belfast) for obtaining a high 1st class mark for his undergraduate dissertation entitled: A statistical analysis of perforated shell discs from Hang Thung Binh 1 cave, Tràng An Landscape Complex, Vietnam. Liam was co-winner of the Jack Kerr Dissertation Prize for his work.

• 7th July 2020 – NEW SUNDASIA publication: O’Donnell, S., Nguyen Thi Mai Huong, Christopher Stimpson, Rachael Holmes, Thorsten Kahlert, Evan Hill, Vo Thuy and Ryan Rabett. Holocene development and human use of mangroves and limestone forest at an ancient hong lagoon in the Tràng An karst, Ninh Binh, Vietnam. Quaternary Science Reviews 242: 106416. Limited time (50-day from this date) free access to the article available here.  The submitted manuscript version can be downloaded directly from this website here. A video abstract to the paper has been prepared by Rachael Holmes and is available here.

• 7th July 2020 – SUNDASIA granted 6-month project extension to 31st December 2020 by AHRC.

• 3rd July 2020 – Grant funding has been secured through a UK Department for the Economy (DfE) – Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF) Award (2020/21 Round) for the SUNDASIA spin-out pilot project: Post-2020 local community-based management contributions in the ecotourism sector: An interdisciplinary assessment of World Heritage Sites in Vietnam and Sri Lanka. Led by Queen’s University Belfast, the principal collaborators on this project are the Tràng An Management Board, SOAS University of London and the Munasinghe Institute for Development, Colombo. The study will run until 31st July 2021.

• 12th June 2020 – Congratulations to Emilie Green (SUNDASIA team member) for securing a QUADRAT DTP PhD studentship at the University of Aberdeen on the project Chronology and Changing Cultures on the Mongolian Steppe.

• 22-26th April 2020 – Benjamin Utting will present a poster entitled: Tropical Forager Palaeoecology at the Tràng An Landscape Complex, Ninh Binh Province, Vietnam (abstract) at the SAA 85th Annual Meeting, Austin, Texas, US; Benjamin Utting and Ben Marwick (University of Washington) will also run a workshop at the SAA Meeting entitled: A Gentle Introduction to Bayesian Statistics for Archaeologists (abstract). (Cancelled owing to Covid-19).

• 2nd March 2020 – Congratulations to Ioanna Bachtsevanidou Strantzali on passing her MPhil viva with corrections!

27th February 2020 – Ryan Rabett gave a seminar at the Department of Archaeology, University of Exeter entitled: Human adaptation and coastal evolution in N. Vietnam: An overview of outcomes and spin-outs.

• 10th January 2020 – Congratulations to Ioanna Bachtsevanidou Strantzali on the submission of her MPhil dissertation entitled: Modern radiocarbon offsets within the land snails Cyclophorus: A tropical karst case study from Northern Vietnam.

• 30th October 2019 – SUNDASIA publication: Rabett, R.J., Coward, F.S., Van, T.T. et al. Human Adaptation to Coastal Evolution: Late Quaternary evidence from Southeast Asia (SUNDASIA) –A report on the second year of the project. Vietnam Archaeology 13(2018): 23-49 – available here

• 23rd October 2019 – SUNDASIA granted 6-month project extension to 30 June 2020 by AHRC.

• 10th October 2019 – Shawn O’Donnell has created an iNaturalist project drawing together all biological observations made within the Tràng An core area and posted by anyone on iNaturalist. ‘Biota of Tràng An’ is available here.

• 17th September 2019 – Benjamin Utting has given a TV interview about his PhD research in Trang An (in Vietnamese).

•  20th August 2019 – Christopher Stimpson gave an presentation to camera about the importance of the osteological reference collection at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

• 27th – 31 July 2019 – Shawn O’Donnell and Evan Hill presented posters at the INQUA conference in Dublin on behalf of SUNDASIA.

•  17th – 21st June 2019 – Rachael Holmes will be presenting a paper entitled: Phytolith Analysis of Đa Bút and Phùng Nguyên Cave Sites in Tràng An, Northern Vietnam in Session 04 ‘Current State of Archaeobotanical Research in Southeast Asia’ at the 3rd SEAMEO SPAFA International Conference on Southeast Asian Archaeology, Bangkok (abstract)

6th June 2019 – Meghan McAllister (SUNDASIA team member) accepts a PhD scholarship in geoarchaeology at Flinders University, Australia on the ARC-funded project (ID: FT180100309): Early human dispersal into Southeast Asia: identifying the key environmental drivers.

3rd June 2019 – Ryan Rabett presented a seminar for the Asian Archaeology Group, Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge entitled: Results from the 2nd year of the SUNDASIA Project: An overview of outcomes and spin-offs.

•  20th May 2019 – GIAA-funded documentary on the Delacour’s langur is completed by VTV2 to help provide the visiting public to Trang An with information about the species and the trial reintroduction initiative.

•  5th April 2019 – Rachael Holmes accepts the offer of a PhD scholarship at the University of Leicester, UK on the CENTA NERC project: Tracing the geological signature of a human-induced transformation of the biosphere in Indonesia.

•  13th March 2019 – NEW SUNDASIA publication: Stimpson C.M., Utting B., O’Donnell, S, Huong, N.T.M., Kahlert T., Manh B.V., Khanh P.S., Rabett R.J. 2019 An 11 000-year-old giant muntjac subfossil from Northern Vietnam: Implications for past and present populations. Royal Society Open Science 6: 181461.

•  25th – 28th February 2019 – GIAA-funded training in conservation practice (part of the prospective trial reintroduction of Delacour’s langur to Tràng An) led by Tilo and Hien Nadler (IUCN Primate Specialist Group) and Bui Van Tuan (Green Viet, Danang NGO), with contributions from Bui Van Manh (Ninh Binh Department of Tourism), Mai Thanh Huyen (Ninh Binh Forest Protection Department) and Nguyen Van Linh (Van Long Nature Reserve) – Photos: Tilo Nadler and Vu Duy Linh.

Trang An training course-Photo T.Nadler (2)
Trang An training course-Photo T.Nadler (10)

•  Field season (9th November – 6th December 2018)

23rd October 2018 – Drs Parm and Katharina von Oheimb (The Natural History Museum, London) visited QUB at the invitation of Ioanna Bachtsevanidou Strantzali.  Their presentation today was entitled: Community assembly and convergent evolution of land snails (Cyclophorus spp.) on Vietnam’s limestone karsts.


•  15th October 2018 – Congratulations to Rachael Holmes for being awarded: Best Undergraduate Year 2017-18, Faculty of Science & Technology, Bournemouth University.

•  12th October 2018 – SUNDASIA receives UKRI GCRF Global Impact Accelerator Award (GIAA) funding.

•  10-14th October 2018 – Thorsten Kahlert presented at the International Symposium for the Conservation, Research and Sustainable Development of Pre-Historic Heritage, Beijing on: The use of immersive visual technology in the promotion and conservation of prehistoric encultured landscapes: A case study from the Trang An World Heritage property, Ninh Binh, Vietnam (abstract).

 • 1st October 2018 – Shawn O’Donnell presented at the Conference on Past Plant Diversity Changes, Rabat on: SUNDASIA – Evidence for the refugial nature of limestone forest biota on the Trang An Massif karst, Ninh Binh province, Vietnam (abstract).

12-14th September 2018 – Thorsten Kahlert presented at the International Aerial Archaeology Conference AARG 2018 on: Small drone – large impact: modelling a tower karst landscape with a pocket-sized UAV (abstract).

1st September 2018 – Welcome to Sean Pyne-O’Donnell, who joins SUNDASIA for a month to study sediment cores extracted from Trang An for evidence of cryptotephra at Queen’s University Belfast.

• 15th August 2018 – Congratulations to Benjamin Utting on his PhD funding award from the National Geographic Society.

17th July 2018 – Congratulations to Rachael Holmes (Department of Archaeology, Anthropology & Forensics, Bournemouth University) on her 1st Class BSc degree and high 1st Class mark for her dissertation entitled: Phytolith Analysis of Da But and Phung Nguyen Cave Sites in Tràng An, Northern Vietnam.

• 5th July 2018 – Welcome to Ciaran Kelly, who joins the SUNDASIA project on a 2-month summer work-placement to assist Thorsten Kahlert with GIS and archiving.

• 28th June 2018 – Congratulations to all of the great undergraduate students from QUB who have been working on the SUNDASIA Project during the last year. Graduation today!

• 28th June 2018 – Emilie Green receives the Kerr Meritorious Performance Prize, and as joint winner, the Kerr Final Year Dissertation Prize (Archaeology & Palaeoecology, Queen’s University Belfast) for her undergraduate dissertation entitled: The Utilisation of Archaeometric Methods for the Compositional and Residual Analysis of Dabutian Pottery Fragments from the Ninh Binh Province, Northern Vietnam. Meghan McAllister receives the Basil Wilson Prize for best performance in the 3rd Year.

• 21st June – 5th July 2018 – Nguyen Thi Mai Huong is visiting Queen’s University Belfast to analyse sediment cores with Shawn O’Donnell that they collected in Tràng An during the April 2018 field season. 

• 15th June 2018 – Welcome to Evan Hill, who joins the SUNDASIA project in an official capacity on a part-time research assistantship, adding his expertise in carbon off-sets and radiocarbon dating terrestrial land snails to the chronometric component of the project.

• 4-9th June 2018 Vietnam – Chris Stimpson presented at the 18th Congress of the International Union of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences (UISPP), Paris on: Spatial and temporal trends in late Pleistocene hunting behaviour in limestone karsts in Northern Vietnam: evidence from the Tràng An World Heritage Area (abstract).

• 15th May 2018 – Congratulations to Benjamin Utting for being awarded PhD funding from the Evans Fund, Cambridge.

10-11th May 2018 – Fiona Coward and Shawn O’Donnell presented at: Bridging the Gap and Crossing Borders: The Transition from Foraging to Farming in Northern Vietnam and Southern China workshop held at the School of Archaeology & Anthropology, Australian National University, Canberra. Presentations entitled, respectively:

• SUNDASIA: recent fieldwork, human-environment interaction and prehistoric social networks in the Tràng An region of northern Vietnam

• Reconstructing mid-Holocene palaeoenvironments in northern Vietnam

Field season (4th – 25th April 2018)

• 5th March 2018 – Emilie Green is awarded a place in the MPhil programme in the Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge.

Field season (21st November – 12th December 2017)

• 29th September 2017 – Benjamin Utting achieved a 1st Class grade on his University of Cambridge MPhil dissertation entitled: Exploring Prehistoric Behavioral Responses to Environmental Change: Tràng An Landscape Complex, Ninh Binh Province, Vietnam

Forthcoming field season (5th – 24th September 2017)

• 30th August – First Year Report submitted

• 10th July – A report on the first year of the project is in preparation

• 19th May 2017 – SUNDASIA becomes a Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) project under the AHRC

• Follow us on Twitter: @SUNDASIAProject and Facebook

Forthcoming workshop and field season (17th March – 6th April 2017)

Forthcoming field season (30th November-21st December 2016)

Forthcoming field season (22nd August-11th September 2016)


Global Challenges Research Fund (AHRC) AH/N005902/1 / Xuan Truong Enterprise

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