Dong Son cultural artifacts in Lang Son Museum
– Dong Son culture is an archaeological culture of the metal era dating back about 2,500-2,000 years ago, mainly distributed in Red River, Ma River and Ca River basins. The outstanding feature of this culture is bronze with plentiful types and shapes, finely crafted. In our country, the provinces: Phu Tho, Nghe An, Thanh Hoa, Lao Cai, Yen Bai … are the places where many Dong Son cultural artifacts are discovered. Although not the main distribution area of Dong Son culture, Lang Son also has important archaeological discoveries about this period and a very rich collection of Dong Son cultural artifacts is formed from a variety of sources.
The first Dong Son cultural artifact found on the land of Lang Son was a bronze fish’s tail-shaped ax discovered by Geologist-Archaeologist M. Colani (Indochina Department of Geology) in 1924 in Dong Lay (Binh Gia district). This ax was found in the process of the French’s searching and studying rock artifacts in the heart of the Bac Son limestone mountain range at that time. The rare documents published later show that in 1962, 1963, in Lang Son area two other bronze axes were discovered in Lung Duong (Bac Son), Dong Tan (Huu Lung). There is also an ax mold found at Ban Gian (Lang Son) at the Vietnam National History Museum. In 1970, while grazing buffaloes in Khau Pat hill area (Na Duong, Loc Binh), a villager accidentally found a bronze drum on the hillside. This drum was beautifully crafted, bearing the typical features of the Heger Type I Drum (commonly known as the Dong Son drum). Archaeologists dated the drum within the 1st century and the 5th century. It was the Dong Son cultural period that basically ended. The drum is named after the place where the artifact was discovered – the Na Duong drum. So far, this is still the only bronze drum found in Lang Son and is one of more than 200 Dong Son drums found in Vietnam.
The fish’s tail-shaped ax was found in Bac Son
Years later, Dong Son cultural artifacts are still very strange to Lang Son because besides the Na Duong drum, the province has not kept any other artifacts. Therefore, around 1993, 1994, when the Bac Son People discovered two fish’s tail-shaped axes in Pac Yeng (Dong Y commune) and Ngoc Mon (Long Dong commune), many people guessed that these were bronze axes of Nguyen Dynasty (in the 19th century). In 1997, during a working trip to Bac Son, officials of the Institute of Archeology (Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences) recognized that these were bronze axes belonging to Dong Son culture. Since then, the search, collection and preservation of Dong Son cultural artifacts on Lang Son land has been paid attention by the Museum, district and city cultural offices.
From propaganda and advocacy, grassroots cultural officials have understood the meaning and value of artifacts to actively collect artifacts, the masses actively hand over artifacts to cultural agencies. Therefore, there have been new documents about Dong Son culture in Lang Son. In 2002, a villager in Huong Coc village (Chien Thang commune, Bac Son district) found an fish’s tail-shaped ax in the Bai Nuong area; In 2011, a worker of Hop Thanh Brick Factory (Cao Loc) found another ax while digging the soil. In 2012, Bac Son Uprising Museum collected a Dong Son cultural bronze ax found by a resident in Lan Ca (Tran Yen commune, Bac Son district) in 1976. Scattering in Chi Lang also, Dong Son cultural artifacts are discovered such as fish’s tail-shaped axes found in communes: Chi Lang, Lam Son. Most of these artifacts are found randomly, not associated with any archaeological relics, not more than one found each time. Up to now, the total number of Dong Son cultural artifacts discovered in Lang Son is less than ten. The most common type is the medium-sized fish’s tail-shaped axe with no decorative patterns, if any, simple geometries. It is easy to see that the sites of Dong Son cultural artifacts discovered in Lang Son all coincide with the distribution areas of Bac Son and Mai Pha cultures (Early and Late Neolithic) in Bac Son, Binh Gia, Huu Lung, Cao Loc, Chi Lang districts; most concentrated in Bac Son district. These are valuable evidences of successive, continuous development from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age in Lang Son.
Although there are few Dong Son cultural artifacts found in the province, Lang Son Museum is home to a rich and diverse Dong Son cultural collection. Over the past years, many collectives and individuals from other provinces have contributed and donated Dong Son artifacts to Lang Son Provincial Museum. In 2006, Mr. Nguyen Minh Thoa – Chairman of Ninh Binh Antique Association donated 31 Dong Son cultural artifacts from his collection of antiques. In 2013, through the Vietnam National History Museum, Thang Long Antique Association and individual members donated nearly 50 other artifacts. In addition, there are artifacts transferred by the province’s agencies. Up to now, the Dong Son cultural artifacts collection of the Provincial Museum has been plentiful with many types: tools of labor and production (duck’s foot-shaped plows, chisels, shovels, fish’s tail-shaped axes, diagonal blade axes, rectangle-shaped axes…), living utensils (buckets, copper pots, bowls…), combat weapons (spears, arrows, shields…), musical instruments (bronze drums) and so on.
Today, historians all agree that Dong Son culture in Vietnam is associated with the era of Hung Kings’ building the country. Dong Son cultural artifacts discovered in Lang Son and other localities mentioned above are vivid and convincing evidence of the first nation-building period. That is also the source of Vietnamese traditional cultural identity in the constant flow of history.