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A pair of Dong Son bells

Dong Son period, ca 300 BCE-300 CE



Cast bronze with a nice green patina and earth encrustations

H9 x W8 cm

Made with the lost wax method of casting, the bells were found in pairs; they were used to decorate animal harnesses, probably water buffalos, and to warn of their approach. The lost wax method was widely spread in Southeast Asia. The skill of the Don Son artists can be seen in these complex little shapes, made in several sections. The two semi-circles forming the bell are decorated with a coiled rope motif covering the entire surface. At the top is a tube through which a rope or belt could be passed for attachment. At the bottom is a wide mouth with suspension loops at each corner probably to attach the clapper. The original iron clapper is still inside, which makes the typical sound of a frog. The bells are decorated with a stylized buffalo head with his horns and decorated with coiled ropes and spirals, typical features of the Dong Son culture. The buffalo head is a common symbol of agricultural wealth and virility. Centuries of earthen deposit and oxidation had fused it to the inside of the bell. The Dong Son culture was named after a village in the north of Vietnam on the banks of the Ma river where a huge number of bronze and other objects were discovered in 1924. It emerged at the start of the 1st millennium BC and marked the height of the bronze civilization in this region. Centred on the Red River Valley of Vietnam, the Dong Son were sophisticated agriculturalists, raising rice and buffalos. The bronze age culture originated in Vietnam and developed in the other countries of Southeast Asia. The large numbers of bronze objects and the complexity of the large well known drums could only be made in an ordered semiurban culture.



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