The Thang Long Imperial Citadel complex,unearths citadel's secrets,new excavation
IMPOSING: Archaeologists have discovered many new items from the pre-Thang Long period and dynasties from around the 8th and 9th centuries during an excavation conducted last year. Photo

They have recently announced the latest results of an excavation around the main area of Kinh Thien Palace which started last year under the direction of the Hanoi People's Committee following a decision issued in July by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and in accordance with recommendations made by UNESCO.

The dig covered an area of 990sq.m to the northeast of Kinh Thien Palace.

The results have helped contribute a more scientific basis on the nature, time, scale, function and value of the relics found at the site.

Scientists discovered many new items from the pre-Thang Long period and dynasties around the 8th and 9th centuries during the excavation.

The discoveries provide more evidence of the existence of the Dai La Citadel at the centre of the complex.

Besides, the excavations also revealed more finds from the Dinh, Early Le, Ly, Tran, Later Le, and Le Trung Hung dynasties.

Among the finds are evidence of a sewage system elaborately built from bricks running from north to south.

The depth and geographical layout of the find show there was no activity at the site before the 8th-9th century.

In the 10th century, no separate cultural layer was formed, but it could be guessed that the area also had some architectural traces due to lotus decorations found on tiles, according to the excavation results.

The Thang Long Imperial Citadel complex,unearths citadel's secrets,new excavation
Scientists have discovered many unique artifacts, including a large dragon crest and terracotta piece from the Ly Dynasty. VNA/VNS Photo

The discovery of a large terracotta dragon statue, even larger than the dragon statues found at the excavation relic site at 18 Hoang Dieu Street, shows that there may be large-scale and important architecture from the Ly Dynasty buried here.

Scientists did not find any artifacts but only a little brownish yellow clay, directly overlapping on the pre-Thang Long cultural layer.

For the Tran Dynasty, architectural vestiges have been found on a smaller scale. The numerous finds of burnt traces of ash suggests a history of wars in the late Tran dynasties in the 14th century that caused serious fire damage many times.

The Thang Long Imperial Citadel complex,unearths citadel's secrets,new excavation
A water sewer from the Dai La era in the 7th-9th century was discovered during the excavation. VNA/VNS Photo

Scientists said they could only recognise clearly one architectural vestige in the form of a water pipe as the others were too small to identify.

For the Le and Le Trung Hung dynasties, the finds have led to many new hypotheses.


There are traces of a floor and the foundations of pillars from the Later Le Dynasty. The pillar formation running from north to south suggests a corridor-like structure similar to those discovered during 2013 and 2014 at the Doan Mon Gate excavation site.

This would also mean the main architectural space of Kinh Thien Palace during the Early Le Dynasty behind the platform of the palace was somewhat narrower than the front.

From the Le Trung Hung period, scientists found an architectural complex with a large columnar foundation to the west and garden architecture to the east.

The columnar structure was likely located on the Ngu Dao axis straight through the Doan Mon Gate - Kinh Thien palace area.

The scientists also said it was very likely a "gate" to another palace would have been located at the centre of Thang Long Citadel. According to ancient writings and maps, Can Chanh Palace stood behind Kinh Thien Palace.

If the "gate" hypothesis is true it would mark the beginning of a second important architectural area on the central axis of the citadel: Can Chanh Palace is thought to have been the court of Emperor Le Trung Hung. 

According to Professor Luu Tran Tieu, chairman of the National Cultural Heritage Council, the excavation results had contributed to confirming the ancient citadel and the relic site at 18 Hoang Dieu as the centre of the Thang Long Imperial Citadel.

"It was the centre of power which was continuously developed for more than 1,000 years," the professor said.

Professor Tieu proposed excavating the central axis of Doan Mon - Kinh Thien - Hau Lau - Bac Mon in 2020 and the following years to collect more documents for the restoration of Kinh Thien Palace.

He also said that the unearthing of a large sewage system was an important find and the most prominent discovery at the site of Kinh Thien Palace.

Tieu suggested expanding the dig to clarify the scale of this work.

Meanwhile, Associate Professor Tran Duc Cuong, chairman of the Vietnam Association of Historical Sciences, gave some stratigraphical analysis saying that the excavated pit reflected the historical depth of Thang Long-Hanoi, dating back from the pre-Thang Long period through the Ly, Tran, Later Le, Le Trung Hung and Nguyen dynasties.

Cuong also suggested continuing the excavation of Thang Long Imperial Citadel to proceed with the plan to restore Kinh Thien Palace.

He proposed opening a limited excavation area in front of Kinh Thien Palace in parallel with an expansion to the whole excavation area in 2019.

Affirming the historical and cultural value of the finds, Professor Nguyen Quang Ngoc, director of the Centre for Hanoi Study and Capital Development, proposed expanding the excavation site.

"If we excavate towards the west, we can reach the location of the palaces of Long An and Nguyet Minh which are said to have been built in the same year as Thang Long Imperial Capital." VNA/VNS

Traces of various dynasties unearthed at Thang Long Royal Citadel complex

Traces of various dynasties unearthed at Thang Long Royal Citadel complex

Archaeologists have found a stock of soil with artefacts from various times throughout history at a site excavated last year near Kính Thien Palace inside Thang Long Royal Citadel Complex in downtown Hanoi.  

Hanoi Flag Tower – the most intact architecture in Thang Long Imperial Citadel

Hanoi Flag Tower – the most intact architecture in Thang Long Imperial Citadel

The Hanoi Flag Tower remains undamaged and the most imposing structure in the entire Thang Long Imperial Vestige.