Season 4: 5th – 24th September 2017

Objectives:

The fourth field season of the SUNDASIA Project was the first to pursue research programmes across all of its principal work packages: in archaeology, GIS and digital terrain mapping, chronometric and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction; with further steps also made in both conservation and management field training. There were six objectives for this season to be met through the efforts of the largest field-team to-date (22 people – including three doctoral and five undergraduate students).

The first objective involved continuation of the landscape survey and mapping programme (sites, locales and marine features), which commenced in March/April this year; now with the aid of a SUAV (Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) – or ‘drone’ – to produce photogrammetric landscape imagery (at c. 220 m altitude). As part of this work, for the first time, all locations of interest, project activities, and project-related activities were logged using a standardised alpha-numeric identification system for entry and manipulation within a GIS database environment.

From an archaeological perspective our intention, and second objective, was to return to Hang Thung Binh 1 to continue excavation in Trench 1 in light of the unexpected antiquity of cultural material excavated from here in March/April of this year; and to open a new complementary trench. This work – including obtaining samples for magnetic susceptibility (for a student dissertation) – was intended to take place during the first half of the season, with excavation shifting in the latter half of the season to another site – also identified in March/April 2017 as having promising archaeological potential earlier this year: Hang Trau Bai Dinh. In the event, excavations were confined to Hang Thung Binh 1 for the whole season.

Use of the GIS unique identifier system extended to the third and fourth of our objectives. Field collection of modern cyclophorids was undertaken from a range of geographic settings around the massif, completing principal coverage of baseline shell data needed for carbon off-set analysis – and beginning the establishment of a local calibration curve for terrestrial shell dating. Sites in our palaeoenvironmental programme (i.e. where pollen traps for modern comparative pollen samples have been situated and where prospective sedimentological hand-coring has been undertaken) were also allocated identifiers under the same system.

The fifth objective centred on the Project’s ongoing commitment to aligning archaeological and conservation ambitions in data-collection. To this end, a series of infrared, motion-sensitive trail cameras were to be placed within a stretch of forest in the core zone least affected by infrastructure, disturbance and visitation. From a conservation perspective this would begin the process of assessing the current state of non-arboreal vertebrate biodiversity within Tràng An. Archaeologically, this work would provide a valuable point of comparison to the extensive zooarchaeological remains being recovered in excavation. In addition, and as part of another student dissertation, we continued field-collection of small vertebrate remains (comprising deadfall, and owl pellet contents) from the site of Hang Ang Noi. This cave is located within the core zone, at an interface between the park’s undeveloped interior and one of its arterial access routes, making it an excellent marker-site for tracking changes in species representation, and through this any disturbance in resident fauna.

Capacity building and knowledge exchange are central to the ambitions of the SUNDASIA Project. The sixth and final objective for this season has been to develop these ambitions through continued direct involvement of Tràng An Management Board staff in all aspects of fieldwork; as well as direct collaboration and mutual exchange of knowledge with key Vietnamese institutions and researchers.

Field Team (UK):

Ryan Rabett (QUB)

Fiona Coward (Bournemouth Univ.)

Christopher Stimpson (QUB)

Thorsten Kahlert (QUB)

Shawn O’Donnell (QUB)

Ioanna Bachtsevanidou Strantzali (QUB)

Benjamin Utting (Cambridge)

Rachael Holmes (Bournemouth Univ.)

Emilie Green (QUB)

Meghan McAllister (QUB)

Ciaran Kelly (QUB)

Aaron Redmond (QUB)

Field Team (Vietnam):

Nguyen Truong Dong (Institute of Archaeology)

Nguyen Thi Mai Huong (Institute of Archaeology)

Pham Tuan Luan (Ninh Binh Provincial Museum)

Vo Thi Phuong Thuy (National Dong Hwa University, Taiwan; Institute of History, Hanoi)

Le Thi Thanh Kim Hue (Trang An Management Board)

Vu Thi Lien (Trang An Management Board)

Vu Duy Linh (Archaeological Officer, Trang An Management Board)

Nguyen Thu Loan (Trang An Management Board)

Truong Thi Quynh Trang (Trang An Management Board)

Vu Thuy Linh (Trang An Management Board)

Selected photographs from the field season:

An example of the stunning images that the SUAV was able to obtain (photo: Thorsten Kahlert / SUNDASIA / Centre for Geographic Information Science and Geomatics, QUB).

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Le Thi Thanh Kim Hue piloting the SUAV (photo: Thorsten Kahlert / SUNDASIA).

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Excavations under way in Trench 2, Hang Thung Binh 1 (photo: Ryan Rabett / SUNDASIA).

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Shawn O’Donnell ‘botanising’ (photo: Thorsten Kahlert / SUNDASIA / Centre for Geographic Information Science and Geomatics, QUB).

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Season 3: 20th March – 6th April 2017

Objectives:

This season of work comprised two main components. The first was a two-day project workshop (18th and 19th March) at which members presented progress reports on their individual work packages, and challenges and opportunities (such as in the area of biodiversity) were discussed with Vietnamese colleagues and invited experts.

The second component of work was a fieldwork period from 20th March – 6th April. This involved archaeological excavations at Thung Binh 1, with the aim to advance our understanding of prehistoric peoples during the early to mid-Holocene; and a topographic survey and cave assessment programme.

Field Team (UK):

Ryan Rabett (QUB)

Christopher Stimpson (QUB)

Thorsten Kahlert (QUB)

Ioanna Bachtsevanidou Strantzali (QUB)

Benjamin Utting (Cambridge)

Field Team (Vietnam):

Le Thi Thanh Kim Hue (Trang An Management Board)

Vu Thi Lien (Trang An Management Board)

Vu Duy Linh (Archaeological Officer, Trang An Management Board)

Nguyen Thu Loan (Trang An Management Board)

Tran Thi Kim Quy (Curator, Long An Provincial Museum; Senckenberg Rearch Institute, Germany)

 

Selected photographs from the field season:

Excavations underway at Thung Binh 1 (photo: Ryan Rabett / SUNDASIA).

Excavations underway at Thung Binh 1

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Thorsten Kahlert taking one of more than 1000 sites photos of Thung Binh 1 to create a 3D digital site model (photo: Ryan Rabett / SUNDASIA).

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Surveying for sites (photos: Le Thi Thanh Kim Hue & Thorsten Kahlert / SUNDASIA)

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Season 2: 30th November – 21st December 2016

Objectives:

The second field season of 2016 (managed and led by Christopher Stimpson) will have three main objectives. The first of these will be re-opening excavations at Hang Moi, a site previously investigated in 2011 by the current project and in 2012 by Vietnamese colleagues. Hang Moi is located inside the Tràng An massif and contains Neolithic (Da But) and earlier cultural deposits that span the mid-Holocene high-stand and the Pleistocene-Holocene transition. Our principal aim this season is to further investigate a midden that was uncovered in 2011 (Trench 2).

Secondly, the team will continue excavations begun in August at the Hang Hanh rockshelter on the periphery of the massif, where Da But cultural material has also been uncovered.

Thirdly, Thorsten Kahlert will meet with colleagues at the Vietnam Institute for Geosciences and Mineral Resources (VIGMR) and undertake preliminary field survey  (assisted by Rachael Holmes) towards creation of the project’s GIS database and terrain-mapping programme.

Field Team (UK):

Christopher Stimpson (QUB)

Thorsten Kahlert (QUB)

Rachael Holmes (BU)

Benjamin Utting (Cambridge)

Marc Verhoeven (AAP Archaeological Consultancy, The Netherlands)

Field Team (Vietnam):

Nguyen Truong Dong (Institute of Archaeology)


Season 1: 22nd August – 11th September 2016

Objectives:

This field season will have four research objectives. Firstly, we shall carry out a geophysical survey using ground-penetrating radar (GPR) at a dozen cave sites within the interior and around the periphery of the Tràng An massif. This will be undertaken by Ashely Green (Bournemouth University, BU), this is the first such study conducted in Tràng An, and will provide a valuable guide for the project’s excavation strategy.

Secondly, a survey of the modern-day biodiversity of Tràng An will be initiated. This will be led by Darren Mann (Head of Life Collections and the insect specialist at Oxford University Museum of Natural History, OUMNH), will draw upon local expertise within the Tràng An Management Board, and involve local students. Extending our understanding of the landscape’s current biodiversity will create important points of comparison to the prehistoric character of the massif, particularly with respect to tracking habitat and species change or resilience through time.

Thirdly, test excavations will commence with UK-Vietnamese teams at two groups of cave sites located close to the perimeter of the massif, led by Christopher Stimpson. Data from these will expand and complement the existing archaeological record from the interior of the massif.

Fourthly, working with the Ninh Binh People’s Committee, the Tràng An Management Board, and other colleagues, Ryan Rabett and Tran Tan Van will also lay the ground-work for forthcoming project work-packages (in the fields of: isotope analyis, GIS modelling, and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction), as well as develop the public profile of the project in Vietnam with local media.

Field Team (UK):

Ryan Rabett (QUB)

Christopher Stimpson (QUB)

Paul Owens (QUB)

David Simpson (QUB)

Ashely Green (BU)

Rachael Holmes (BU)

Lucy Farr (University of Cambridge)

Darren Mann (OUMNH)

James Bullen (independent)

Field Team (Vietnam):

Nguyen Truong Dong (Institute of Archaeology)

Pham Thanh Son (Institute of Archaeology)

Selected photographs from the field season:

Site survey and test excavations at Hang Ang Noi

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Test excavation at Hang Hanh rock-shelter

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GPR survey work at the Temple rock-shelter

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