14th century stone road found in central Vietnam

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Local archaeologists have announced the discovery of a 14th century stone pathway at the southern gate of Ho Dynasty Citadel, a World Heritage Site in the central province of Thanh Hoa.

The pathway, approximately two kilometers long, runs across the gate to connect Vinh Tien and Vinh Thanh communes with Vinh Loc District in the province.

Dr Tran Anh Dung, head of the excavation team from the Archaeology Institute, was quoted by Lao Dong Newspaper last week as saying "the unearthed road is Vietnam's most beautiful ancient road so far."

According to historical records, Ho Dynasty Emperor (Ho Quy Ly (1336-1407) used the royal road to travel from the inner citadel to Don Son Mountain, where he held ceremonies to heaven and earth, praying for peace and prosperity to the country and people.

Dr Do Quang Trong, Director of Ho Dynasty Citadel Preservation Center, said that the excavation project in an area of 1,500 square meter around the site is expected to unearth the citadel's original road and base.

The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) has included the 2-km royal entry into the heritage listing as the most imposing, spectacular road in Southeast Asia.

The Vietnamese archaeologists also expect to unearth three-span, five-span and seven-span abutments around 100 meters away from the southern gate.

Trong added that the project also aims to answer the question of how the emperor traveled in and out of his citadel and if it was used as merely a military building or a royal capital in the past.

In addition to the stone pathway, Dung's team has also unearthed several artifacts, including ancient weapons made of stone and iron, and ceramic objects dating back to the Le Dynasty (1428-1528).

Excavation work will be carried out on either side of the gates and structures inside the palace.

Trong said that the excavation would affect daily activities of local people, it requires collarboration and coordination between the government and several departments.

"In order to unearth the whole underground road, it is necessary to build a new road nearby to replace the old one which is used for travelling at present," said Trong, "Then, the ancient road should be promoted as a heritage road to protect the surrounding environment and develop tourism."

The Ho Dynasty Citadel, located in the two communes of Vinh Tien and Vinh Long in Vinh Loc District, was built in 1397 and was recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage site in June, 2011.

In September, a rock site at the An Ton mountain area of around 25,300 hectares in the province's Vinh Loc District was discovered as an excavation site used for constructing the citadel, which is nearly two kilometers away.

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