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1. Swords and Daggers
Dong Son 4th–2nd century BCE
Bronze, handles cast in the lost wax method, blades made of iron
Length: 27-72 cm
Swords and Daggers

This unique collection comprises three swords and two daggers. The incised hilts bear the typical Dongsonian geometrical motifs and are topped each by a superb openworked ornament. Few Dong Son artefacts with iron were uncovered, probably resulting of a trade embargo imposed by the Han dynasty emperors, which included the importation of iron. For this reason the present armory pieces probably date back before the 2nd century BCE. These swords and daggers may have had a ceremonial purpose next to their potential functional use considering the sharpness and hardness of the iron blades.

The Dong Son culture was a bronze age culture in ancient Vietnam located at the Red River Valley of northern Vietnam from ca 1000 BCE until the first century CE. It was the last great culture of Văn Lang, which is the previous name of Vietnam. The influence of this sophisticated bronze culture spread to numerous parts of Southeast Asia. The Dong Son people, who are also known as Lac or Lac Viêt, were skilled at cultivating rice, keeping water buffalos and pigs, fishing and sailing in long dugout canoes. They also were skilled bronze casters, which is evidenced by the bronze artefacts found widely throughout northern Vietnam, Southeast Asia and Southern China.

Complemented by a deep greenish patina the swords and daggers have corroded iron blades and beautifully rendered hilts with engraved ornaments. Examples with a similar shaped handle and patterns are exhibited in Trung Bay Coi Vat, Hoang Long, Vietnam, Huang Long Antique Museum, in the Vietnam Museum in Xem ban Tieng Viet Co Dau, and in the National Museum of Vietnamese history, Hanoi.

Conservation and restoration condition report - Restaura, Haelen, The Netherlands, 2016.

Private collection, The Netherlands, 1980s–2016.

N. Tingley, Arts of Ancient Viet Nam, From River Plain to Open Sea, Asia Society, New York, 2010, pp. 4–5, fig. 5.
Ibid. pp. 23–39, A. Reinecke, Early Cultures (first millennium B.C. to second century A.D.)
Ibid. pp. 58–59, fig. 2.

all text, images © Marcel Nies
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