The karst of the Phong Nha National Park has evolved since the Paleozoic era, some 400 million years ago and is the oldest karst region in Asia. The landscape is extremely complex as a result of tectonic uplift and changing sea levels and the limestone is embedded with other rocks.
Historical Culture of Phong Nha National Park
The oldest evidence of human occupation is the Neolithic axe heads and other remains found in some of the caves. Within the national park there is some ancient hieroglyphic script of the Cham people. It has been suggested that the By Ky grotto may have been a Champa mosque from the 9th to the 11th centuries. Many Champa style ceramics have been discovered in the caves including earthenware vases with lotus-shaped ruby-coloured mouths on them. Other Vietnamese relics include altars, steles (pillars erected for hosting inscriptions), sculptures, stone statues, hieroglyphics, buddhas and Chinese artifacts. At Maria Mountain in the north area of the park, relics were found of Ham Nghi, the last king of the Nguyen dynasty before the french colonial period.
In the 1920s the area was seen as one of Vietnam’s great landscapes and tourist attractions. During the Vietnam War the caves were used as a base for the North Vietnamese army. In 1986 the first 5000 hectares were declared a cultural and historical site. In 1993 the area was declared a nature reserve and extended to 41,132 hectares and in the year 2000 the Phong Nha National Park was established. The park became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003. Current research and surveying continues under Howard Limbert from the British Cave Research Association in cooperation with the Faculty for Geology and Geography of Vietnam National University.