A Cham tower foundation found in Phong Le Village in March is one of the biggest such structures found in Vietnam , a team of archaeologists from Da Nang 's Cham Sculpture Museum and Hanoi 's University of Social Sciences and Humanities have affirmed.

Statues, bricks, pebbles and structures found at the site of the foundation help the team expose a 1,000-year-old tower.

"We have verified that the foundation of the main tower was for a very large Cham tower built in the 10th century," the head of the team, Nguyen Chieu, told a press conference on Aug. 28.

"We dug five pits on the site and found hundreds of bricks and stones left from the collapsed tower," Chieu said, saying the team conjectures that the tower was built to honour the Champa king. The kingdom ruled in the central coast region between the 4th and 13th centuries, so many towers remained undiscovered in the area, he said.

The archeological team also found evidence that the French partially excavated the tower 100 years ago and that some of the stone statues and relics were those displayed at the Cham Sculpture Museum in Da Nang , collected from Phong Le Village in April when a villager building a house dug up the relics.

Archaeologists then found an entrance tower in a 206sq.m pit in April and expanded the excavation to four pits totalling 500sq.m.

"The excavation showed that the century-old tower included four gates facing the four cardinal directions," Chieu explained. "We have just cleared the main tower, but we have yet to discover smaller towers surrounding the larger one."

Archaeologist Nguyen Xuan Manh, a member of the team, said the discovery of the main tower might lead to discovery of a grouping of towers in the village.

"The Cham people had excellent technique in building for their eternal towers, which reflected the power of the Champa Kingdom ," Manh told Vietnam News. "All bricks were half-baked so that the Cham could easily build a very large tower without mortar or adhesive. We speculate that the mason simply had to rub bricks together with water, creating an adhesive of brick dust and water.

"The foundation of the main tower was such a solid structure that the tower could stand for centuries. They compressed pebble, sand and broken brick on base from layer to layer. The then flat base was set to build the foundation and walls," he added.

The tower was as big as the Dong Duong Tower in Quang Nam Province 's Thang Binh District, he said.

Cham Sculpture Museum director Vo Van Thang proposed that the vestiges be protected as a national treasure.

"They should be preserved immediately," said Thang. "The tower remains are typical of a collapsed Cham tower with intact relics from the 10th century. The village, which is 10km from the city centre, can be made a destination linked to the museum. Tourists can see relics of Cham towers in the museum, but it's interesting if they can see a real tower buried 1,000 years ago."

Phong Le was an historic village including temples, communal houses, festivals and and village structures all over 100 years old, including a 150-year-old temple near the site of the big Cham tower.

"Villagers still preserve their traditional crafts including rice paper, conical hat, mat weaving, and bamboo crafts," Thang said.

The deputy director of the city's Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Tran Quang Thanh, said the department will soon submit procedures for recognition of the site.

"We'll propose to the city administration a detailed project to protect the tower relic before promoting it as destination in near future," Thanh said. "Phong Le Village and its tangible and intangible heritage are also precious treasures to be protected."

Bui Duy Hoang, an archaeologist from HCM City , said the discovery at Phong Le was magnificent.

"It helps link the Cham towers in the village to relics at the Cham Museum and My Son Sanctuary in Quang Nam Province ," Hoang said. "The discovery will bring us different perspectives on the Cham towers and culture.-VNA