Ritual dagger with ancestor figure
Dongson culture, Vietnam
500 BC–200 AD
Ex collection: Tuyet Nguyet, publisher of Arts of Asia magazine
10.5 in / 26.5 cm
Dongson was the title given to a Bronze-Iron Age culture named after the North Vietnamese village of Dong Son that was the first archeological find site in 1924. It is thought that the people were proto-Cham, with likely both Li-Tai and Austronesian language affinities. Daggers of this type, sometimes described as short swords, probably served ceremonial purposes, including the sacrificing of animals. They offer great insights into costumes and jewelry of the era, including large earrings and hip-wrap sarongs that greatly resemble tribal Southeast Asian clothing up to recent times. It has been theorized that the classic Indonesian and Malay ceremonial dagger, keris, descended from Dongson blades of this type.