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15 Apr 2007 (Viet Nam News) – It’s quite interesting to hear about ‘amateur archaeologists’ nowadays, particularly from this part of the world. This man collected some 7,500 stone artefacts over a span of 17 years. I find it quite interesting that the archaeology authorities commend him for his collection efforts rather than the loss of valuable context. Still, the alternative may be worse if the artefacts become ground to make drugs for folk use.

Amateur archaeologist illuminates past

It was almost 17 years ago when Van Dinh Thanh, while panning for gold on the banks of the Po Co River in Sa Thay Commune, reached down and picked up what he thought was a golden nugget. On closer inspection he discovered that the object was a worked piece of stone. Later he was to learn that it was a prehistoric stone hammer. The discovery fired his passion for ancient artefacts and was the start of the young gold prospector’s new life as an amateur archaeologist.

Thanh’s collection now numbers 7,000 artefacts and is the largest in the province. The artefacts date from the 500 BC to 5500 BC and include stone axes, drills, hoes, jewellery and Bon Rang Trau, an agricultural tool shaped like a buffalo’s teeth. The collection is divided into three categories: the Neolithic era (New Stone Age), Mesolithic era (Middle Stone Age) and Palaeolithic era (Old Stone Age). Experts say his collection is invaluable to understanding the anthropology of the region.

“I highly appreciate what Thanh has done,” says Professor Nguyen Khac Su from the Viet Nam Institute of Archaeology, who was a member of the group that visited Thanh’s house in 1991. “The standard of education among those living in the gold fields of Lung Leng is very low. They assume that these tools are ‘hammers of god’ and often grind them down to make drugs for their children. Other people throw them away because they are scared of the prehistoric remains.”

Related Books:
The Bronze Age of Southeast Asia (Cambridge World Archaeology) by C. Higham
Stone adzes of Southeast Asia;: An illustrated typology (Canterbury Museum bulletin) by R. Duff

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