Centuries-old jar found in famous Vietnamese cave

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The terracotta jar found by a local tour guide about 700 meters from the mouth of the Phong Nha Cave system. The jar may date back to the 16th or 17th centuries or may be even older. 

A centuries-old terracotta jar was found on March 20 in Phong Nha Cave, located in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in the central province of Quang Binh.

Le Thanh Loi, director of Phong Nha - Ke Bang Tourist Center, said one of its tour guides, Hoang Dang Lam, saw the 60-centimeter-tall jar about 700 meters from the mouth of the 7,729-meter deep cave.

Lam was quoted by Vietnam News Agency as saying that it is difficult to find the jar since it is embedded in the cave's wall and is hidden by stalactites near the edge of an underground river.

The jar, whose orifice was covered with mud accumulated over a long period of time, has two moldings, Tran Anh Tuan, director of Quang Binh General Museum, told Thanh Nien, adding that this type of jar may have been commonly used in Vietnam in the 16th and 17th centuries or earlier.

Researchers said the jar could have become lodged in the cave's wall as the result of having been swept away by flood waters; or that it may have been used by people in the past to hide their belongings during wartime; or that people may have brought the jar with them for several purposes when they went fishing in the cave, according to Tuan.

The ancient jar before mud was removed from it by researchers

"This is an antique and there is nothing inside," he said after researchers had removed the mud from the jar and its surface, adding that he has asked Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park management to inform tourists and locals about the jar's presence and not allow anyone to touch it.

Earlier, it was thought that the jar might have been used to house objects or human remains as part of the burial customs of the ancient Cham people. The location that the jar was found is just 100 meters far from Bi Ky Cave, part of the Phong Nha Cave system, which contains cultural remnants from the Kingdom of Champa (192-1832), according to the Vietnam News Agency.

Many locals told Thanh Nien they believed that jar dated back to the time of Emperor Ham Nghi of the Nguyen Dynasty (1871-1943).

It was once believed that Phong Nha Cave was one of the places where the emperor hid his gold, as he had lived in Quang Binh. From 1990-1991, a group of people reportedly searched for gold in a segment of the Son River located near the mouth of Phong Nha Cave, but the results of their hunt have yet to be widely revealed.  

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park was recognized as a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2003 for its beautiful scenery, as well as its biological and geological diversity.

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