[Lecture] Bronze Drums of Southeast Asia by Jacques de Guerny

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Lecture at the Siam Society, Bangkok on 1 November 2018.

DATE: Thursday, 1 November 2018
TIME: 7:00 p.m.
PLACE: The Siam Society, 131 Asoke Montri Rd, Sukhumvit 21

The Bronze Age produced revolutionary innovations like the drums, stronger and more sonorous than their wooden and skin predecessors. They created new rites and bestowed on their owners a prestige even in the afterlife. On their drumhead (tympanum) and their cylindrical base, the drums were engraved with decorations open to interpretation, including the iconic frogs deemed to control the rain. Southeast Asian communities bestowed a new mission on the drums, not only as a source of sound but also to evoke values deemed crucial for everyday life or for the afterlife, from the steppes to the tropics. From inception to the present, the evolution of bronze drums spans around 2,500 years. Rituals have been conducted in their presence, from modern south China and Vietnam to Indonesia, including Indochina and Thailand. Bronze, an alloy resistant to corrosion, elevated the status of these objects from simple pots to valuable masterpieces of creativity, at the crossroads of spiritual and commercial values. They belong to the treasures of humanity, housed within museums around the world and still used at solemn ceremonies, including the funeral rites in October 2017 of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej. In my talk, I will trace the evolution of bronze drums across centuries and Southeast Asian cultures, in Cambodia, China, Laos, Indonesia/Bali, Malaysia, Myanmar/Burma, Thailand and Vietnam.

Dong Son drum found in Sukhothai province

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Dong Son Drum fragment from Sukhothai. Source: Post Today 2015044

Article is in Thai, but the picture says it all. A Dong Son drum (at least, a fragment of it) was found in Thailand’s Sukhothai province.

Dong Son Drum fragment from Sukhothai. Source: Post Today 2015044

Dong Son Drum fragment from Sukhothai. Source: Post Today 2015044

สุโขทัยพบกลองโบราณอายุกว่า2,500ปี…. อ่านต่อได้ที่
Post Today, 04 April 2015
Article is in Thai

สุโขทัย-พบกลองโบราณกลางไร่มันบ้านวังหาด นักโบราณคดีตรวจสอบแล้วพบมีอายุกว่า 2,500 ปี เมื่อวันที่4เม.ย.58 ที่บริเวณกลางไร่มันสำปะหลัง หมู่ 2 บ้านวังหาด ต.ตลิ่งชัน อ.บ้านด่านลานหอย จ.สุโขทัย ได้มีการค้นพบวัตถุโบราณลักษณะเป็นแผ่นสำริด……. อ่านต่อได้ที่

Full story here.

Vietnam adds more national treasures to register

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Stele at the Temple of Literature. Source: Viet Nam Net 20150114

Vietnam has moved to recgonise 12 more relics in its national register, including a bronze Dong son drum, the stele at the Temple of Literature, and a Mukalinga.

Stele at the Temple of Literature. Source: Viet Nam Net 20150114

Stele at the Temple of Literature. Source: Viet Nam Net 20150114

12 artefacts gain new status
Viet Nam Net, 14 January 2015

Vietnam names another 12 cultural, historical items national treasures
Tuoi Tre News, 15 January 2015

Close-up of seven newly recognized national treasures
Viet Nam Net, 17 January 2015
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Bronze drum discovered in north vietnam

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A bronze Dong Son drum has been found in Bac Kan province in north Vietnam.

Archaeologists discuss the newly-found bronze drum from northern province of Bac Kan. Source: Saigon Giai Phong 20130708

Archaeologists discuss the newly-found bronze
drum from northern province of Bac Kan. Source: Saigon Giai Phong 20130708

Ancient bronze drum found in Bac Kan
Saigon Giai Phong, 06 July 2018

A bronze drum from the Dong Son culture (2,000BC-200AD) has been found at a road construction site in the northern province of Bac Kan, according to researchers from the Vietnam Archaeology Institute.

Full story here.

Vietnam draws up list of national treasures

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Vietnam has approved a list of 30 national treasures representing the country’s past, including Dong Son drums and various archaeological and historical artefacts.

Tripod Cauldrons at Hue's Imperial Citadel, Viet Nam News 20121004

Tripod Cauldrons at Hue’s Imperial Citadel, Viet Nam News 20121004

National treasures recognised [Link no longer active]
Viet Nam News, 04 October 2012
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Dong Son and the sea

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A Dong Son bronze spear and an axe found near the coastline may suggest that the ancient peoples of that culture may have interacted with the sea more than previously thought. I do find the conclusions of the archaeologist in the article stretching a bit too thin when he says that the discovery of the artefacts prove that there was trading activity going on near the sea though.

Artifacts further evidence of East Sea sovereignty: expert
Vietnam Net Bridge, 07 July 2009
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Speed review: Archaeology news from the last two weeks

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Between the Christmas and New Year celebrations, and my two weeks at the field, I didn’t have the time to cover any of the archaeology news that has surfaced in the last three weeks. In Wednesday Rojak style, here’s the quick summary of what’s been happening in Southeast Asia over the last three weeks: Skeletal remains in Malaysia, Digital Reconstruction in Cambodia, Restoration works in Vietnam and a Construction Mess in Indonesia.

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