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Ancient Vietnamese Stone Implements

Axe: length: 12.5 cm. (4 15/16 in.)
Spearhead: length: 11.8 cm. (4 5/8 in.)
Hoe: length: 9.5 cm. (3 3/4 in.)

Dongson culture,
1st century BC–AD 1st century.

Published: Jochen May and Stephan Graf von der Schulenburg, Die Nachbarn im Suden Fruhe Keramic und Bronze aus Vietnam, Museum fur Kunsthandwerk, Frankfurt, 1998, no. 82a, illustrated on p. 112; bronze stone container, no 82, illustrated on p. 111.

The twenty-one stone implements were skillfully shaped and worked, the surfaces polished to a satiny smoothness and soft sheen. They range in color from black to greys to subtle shades of moss and grey-green. Daggers, spearheads, arrowheads, a variety of miscellaneous blades, axes and a hoe, appear to emulate metalwork, suggested by such features as the median crests similar to those on metal blades and the small depressions that approximate the rivets on metal blades, as well as projections from the sockets that seem to mimic the wooden shafts that would have been affixed to the blades. Such metalware implements are associated with Vietnamese Dongson and other Southeast Asian cultures, as well as with Chinese agricultural and hunting equipment from such southern provinces as Guangxi and Guangdong dating to the late Zhou and Han periods.

The migration of metal to stone when tools or implements are concerned might seem an unusual direction but understandable if the stone objects were intended for ritual use and internment with the deceased. The present stone objects were found in a bronze bucket, similar in material, shape and thread relief decor to a large family known from northern Vietnam and south and southwestern China and in contexts datable from around the 3rd century BC to the 2nd century AD. In Nanyue kingdom burials in Guangdong province the vessels contained bone, turtle remains and shells. Cowrie shells were the main contents of vessels found in the Dian kingdom in Yunnan, In Dongson burials in Northern Vietnam the vessels were filled with metal and stone implements, as in the present case.

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