2,000-year-old instrument found in Vietnam is first of its kind

It's one of the earliest instruments of Southeast Asia.
Nergis Firtina
Newly discovered ancient instrument.
Newly discovered ancient instrument.

Campos et al.  

Music has been a communication language since the early ages of human history. Instruments have also helped this communication over the years.

In Southern Vietnam, archeologists found an ancient stringed instrument from deer antlers. According to scientists, the ancient instrument could be the oldest ever discovered in Southeast Asia.

The 2,000-year-old instrument, which resembles a single-stringed harp and was found at a site along the Mekong River, may have been a great-grandparent to the intricate musical instruments that people in Vietnam still play today.

A 35-centimeter-long piece of deer antler with a hole for a peg at one end makes up the item. The peg was probably used to tune the string, much like the keys on the top of a guitar. The object also has a bridge that may have been used to support the string, but the string itself has long since been lost due to erosion.

2,000-year-old instrument found in Vietnam is first of its kind
The instrument is at least 2000 years old.

It belongs to pre-Óc Eo culture

It is remarkably early for this kind of device for the experts to have dated the object to 2,000 years ago from Vietnam's pre-c Eo culture around the Mekong River, as IFLScience reported.

"This stringed instrument, or chordophone, is one of the earliest examples of this type of instrument in Southeast Asia. It fills the gap between the region's earliest known musical instruments – lithophones or stone percussion plates – and more modern instruments," said Fredeliza Campos, lead researcher, and Ph.D. student from Australian National University.

The researchers combed through a database of more than 600 bone items discovered in the area to better understand ancient Vietnam's music culture. According to their investigation, this fashioned antler satisfies the criteria and demonstrates the origin of modern Vietnamese musical instruments like the K'ný.

"The K'ný is a single-string bowed instrument that is uniquely controlled by the player's mouth, which also acts as a resonator. It can play a wide variety of sounds and tones, much more than a chromatic scale you often hear on a piano," added Campos. 

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The study was published in Antiquity on February 21.

Study abstract:

Music likely played an important role within prehistoric societies but can be challenging to study in the absence of evidence for musical instruments. Here, the authors present two deer antlers recovered from the early Metal Age site of Go O Chua in southern Vietnam. A detailed examination of the artefacts, including evidence for use-wear, combined with insights from ethnographic analogies, leads the authors to conclude that the artefacts were single-stringed musical instruments. At least 2000 years old, the Go O Chua artefacts would be the earliest-known examples of chordophones from the region and indicate a long musical tradition. Their identification gives impetus to archaeo-musicological research in Southeast Asia and beyond.

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