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The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

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Archaeology Department Hosts Lecture

Archaeology+Department+Hosts+Lecture

Research Proves Origins of Ancient Vietnamese Civilization

Knox students were granted an unique opportunity on Sept. 15. Associate Professor Nam Kim, from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, gave a lecture on his archaeological findings in the Trustees room located in Alumni Hall. Associate Dean Danielle Fatkin gave an introduction to the lecture.

The event was open to the public and focused on the civilization of ancient Vietnam. The lecture had a diverse audience, ranging from students and staff to Galesburg community members. Kim began by asking the audience how many people had been to Vietnam, and only one person raised their hand. For the vast majority of the audience, this was a chance to get to know a part of the world that was previously unknown to them. 

Kim continued the lecture by giving a description of an ancient legend about the Kingdom of Au Lac and its capital city Co Loa. Vietnamese believe that this legend signifies that an indigenous civilization existed before the Chinese conquest. But according to Chinese historians, before the conquest, Vietnamese people were ‘barbarians’, and did not have a civilization of their own. The civilization of Vietnam was forced on them with the Chinese conquest. The goal of Kim’s research was to prove which account is historically accurate. 

The results proved that neither accounts are wrong. The excavation site where Co Loa is believed to be showed that an ancient, indigenous civilization indeed did exist before the Chinese conquest, because the age of the artifacts date many years before it. 

However, the shape of the house roofs resembled Chinese architecture style, showing Chinese influence did have an effect on the formation of the civilization. One possible way that this could have happened is the joining of Chinese refugees to the community from China’s warring period. Most notably, the excavation found nine walls surrounding the city – an aspect of Co Loa which previously only existed in legend. 

“This research proves part of the national imagination of the Vietnamese is correct,” Kim said. 

The discovery proved that the legend of Co Loa is in fact historically accurate, strongly supporting the national identity of the Vietnamese people. Vietnam is currently trying to seek UNESCO status for the site. This would designate it as a World Heritage Site. Due to the importance of his work, Kim has been given strong support from the Vietnamese government and the locals. He has even had visits with the Vietnamese President. 

For Kim, this research is personal. He was born in Vietnam and is half Vietnamese and half Korean. Kim came to the USA at the end of the Vietnam War, when he was only one-year-old. Working on this research gave him a chance to go back to where he was born and to connect with his roots. 

“It is important to my ancestry, and I felt very privileged to work on this project,” Kim said. 

Archaeology lecture scene. Photo by Yuchen Wang

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About the Contributor
Yuchen Wang
Yuchen Wang, Radio Editor
Yuchen Wang '25 (he/him) is the radio editor at TKS. He is a creative writing major and a computer science minor. In his free time, he likes to listen to classical music and read books.

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