Preserving paleontological sites in Lang Son
(LSO) – Paleontological sites are places of naturally-formed animal and plant fossils that can be layers of soil, rock or sediment in caves. Such relics are often found in areas with early geological formation and mountainous regions with caves with favourable conditions for the development of ancient species, like Lang Son, Thai Nguyen, Ninh Binh, Yen Bai, Nghe An and Thanh Hoa provinces.
Archaeologists and geologists have confirmed the presence of such relic sites in Lang Son city and some districts in the province. Loc Binh district is home to many paleontological sites that reflect the tectonic history, as well as the formation and development of ancient flora and fauna. In the Na Duong mine area, geologists and paleontologists unearthed fossils of trees, leaves, turtles, crocodiles and shells in 2002. Meanwhile, at the Rinh Chua relic site in Tu Doan commune, they discovered fossils of beetles, oysters, snails, molluscs, plants and pollen spores. The fossils, which date back millions of years, are valuable to the study of geology and the formation of life in the country.
A joint team of the Institute of Archaeology, the National History Museum and the Lang Son Provincial Museum conduct survey at an archaeological site in Yen Thinh commune, Huu Lung district. Photo: NGOC HIEU
Binh Gia district is also home to many important paleontological sites. Fossils of many ancient animals in the Middle Pleistocene such as stegodon, rhino, leopard, tiger, bear, monkey, porcupine, wild boar, bison and deer, especially teeth of Homo erectus dating back 475,000 years, have been found in Tham Khuyen and Tham Hai archaeological sites in Tan Van commune. Scientists also found fossils of animals in the Post-Pleistocene age like orangutan, stegodon and bear, and remains of Homo sapiens at Keo Leng cave in To Hieu commune.
With these important archaeological findings, Lang Son has been known as the place with the first vestiges of humans in Vietnam. Trang Dinh and Van Lang districts house some relics such as Coc Muoi cave in Lung Phay village, Chi Minh commune, and Pac Day cave in Vac village, Trung Quan commune which were excavated in 2013 and 2016. The excavations revealed bones and teeth of animals dating back to the Post-Pleistocene age (about 114,000 years ago) like orangutan, langur, monkey, ape, Asian elephant, stegodon, tiger, bear, rhinoceros, buffalo, bison and porcupine. Post-Pleistocene sites also scatter in some other localities such as Phai Ve, Phai Deo (Lang Son city), Tham Chan (Binh Gia) and Ly Lan (Huu Lung).
The relics are valuable to the study of the formation of geology, ancient ecosystem and environment, and the evolution of living creatures and humans in Vietnam. They are non-renewable and make up only a small part among historical and cultural relic sites in Vietnam The paleontological sites in Lang Son have attracted archaeologists and geologists at home and from foreign countries like Russia, Germany, the Netherlands, France and Australia since 1964. The Institute of Archaeology under the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology has cooperated with foreign experts to implement many research projects in those relic sites. Currently, research is underway on artifacts found at many of the sites. Aware of the value and importance of the archaeological sites, local authorities have taken synchronous solutions to manage, preserve and promote their values in line with the Cultural Heritage Law. Like other relic sites, paleontological sites have been listed and assigned to local authorities for management. So far, four such relics have been classified as national relics and one as provincial relic. Some key sites have been approved to receive visitors for study and research purposes. In 2015, Tham Khuyen and Tham Hai relic sites were recognised as provincial tourism destinations.
The paleontological sites are of significance to the research and education in local and national history. Therefore, local authorities need to pay more attention to the preservation work.