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Far East Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Go Mun Culture (Bronze Age) (Vietnam)
c.1200 - 600 BC

FeatureHuman history in Asia as a whole provides one of the earliest stories outside of the Near East and Africa. However, human history in South-East Asia is relatively obscure. Anatomically modern humans in the form of Homo sapiens reached the region around 60,000 BC, quickly expanding into Oceania and East Asia soon afterwards (see the Hominid Chronology feature link for more).

The Go Mun culture succeeded the Phung-nguyen and its (potentially) late-phase Dong Dau culture shortly before the start of the first millennium BC. This was another of many Vietnamese cultures which can be linked to the Van Lang kingdom and its mythical ruling Hung dynasty of the third-to-first millennia BC (the contemporary Mai Pha culture had very limited geographical reach).

The 1961 archaeological type site for the culture is located in northern Vietnam: Dong Dau village, Yen Lac town, Yen Lac district, Vinh Phuc province. The culture provides the country's third phase of the Bronze Age, with it being a continuation of the Phung-nguyen and Dong Dau rather than an outright replacement.

Finds exhibit a range of bronze tools, weapons, and ornaments, along with polished stone adzes which are sometimes not as well made as earlier stone tools thanks to production interest and standards gradually seeming to wane. Bone artefacts have also been found at many archaeological sites.

Pottery was diverse in type and in terms of decorative motifs, with the latter including waves, tablatures, concentric circles, and other forms. Bronze tools, such as arrows, were discovered at many sites, revealing the preference of the Dong Dau people for bronze tools, which allowed them to be more productive. Those very bronze tools included hooks, arrows, and lances, showing that they were gradually becoming more necessary and more important for working.

Ceramic products developed, showing improved application of diverse printed and embossed patterns. With the progress being made in terms of bronze tools, Go Mun people gradually established a degree of control over natural forces, so that they were able to master the Red River delta, laying the foundations for the development of the subsequent Dong Son culture.

In fact, this culture initially ran parallel to the long-lived Dong Son before eventually being succeeded by it. Dating here is preferred, but can be given alternatively as about 1100-800 BC, shortening its influence and reach between the end of the Phung-nguyen and the early period Dong Son.

Traditional House, Vietnam

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Vietnam: A New History, Christopher Goscha, from Early Mainland Southeast Asia, C Higham (River Books Co, 2014), from Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopaedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor, Keat Gin Ooi (ABC-Clio, 2004), from The Macmillan Dictionary of Archaeology, Ruth D Whitehouse (Macmillan, 1983), and from External Links: Bradshaw Foundation, and Vietnam (Countrystudies), and Pre-Dong Son cultures (Vietnam National Museum of History), and Vietnam National Museum of History.)

c.1000 BC

An excavation of the Duong Xa site (in January 1998) uncovers an inhabited location of one cultural stratum which is divided into two continuous layers, without a sterile layer in between. This indicates continual occupation between the lower, earlier layer - inhabited by people of the Go Mun - and the upper, later layer which is inhabited by people of the Dong Son.

No trace is found of bronze artefacts, but there are a few items of stoneware and a large quantity of ceramics (in broken pieces). The progress of ceramics neatly matches the cultural layer classification.

Go Mum artefacts from Vietnam
Based on the findings from the Duong Xa site, arrowheads and spearheads which were unearthed here are probably common in other Go Mun and Dong Son sites

c.600 BC

The late Bronze Age Go Mun culture of South-East Asia has provided an archaeological framework for a period within the mythical Van Lang kingdom. Now it fades in preference for the already-extant Dong Son culture of the north.

The Sa Huỳnh continues to dominate in the south and centre of Vietnam, while in the far south, around the Mekong delta region, the Dong Nai culture soon emerges.

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