Ha Long culture after the stone age


Known as one of the earliest prehistoric cultures in Vietnam and Southeast Asia, Ha Long culture was found and named in 1930 by archaeologists and geologists.

J.G. Anderson, a Swiss scholar, researched many caves in the Bai Tu Long archipelago and published the project “Researching archaeology in Bai Tu Long archipelago” in the Far East Antique Museum Magazine. He found some remains of traces of prehistoric people and instruments. He chose one of them for excavating and named it Danh Do La. This was the first site of Ha Long culture and has been well-known since then.

Following Anderson, Vietnamese archaelogists found that Danh Do La is Ngoc Vung, located on Ngoc Vung island, Van Don. It is about 34km from Bai Chay. These days, it is very convenient for tourists to visit the island. The island is not only a place where prehistoric people settled 4000 years ago, but a bustling ancient harbor: the Van Don port, from where trade was conducted around Northeastern Vietnam, Southern China, ancient Asian countries and Western India. Ancient people most probably settled in Ngoc Vung due to the charming nature of Van Xuan mountain and white sandy beaches. They gathered pearls for their living, accordingly, the island was named Ngoc Vung (bright pearl island). Nowadays, visitors can witness pearl feeding farms on the island.

Ms M.Colani, a French archaeologist is also a researcher of Ha Long culture. She revealed her work “Prehistoric discoveries in Ha Long” published in the magazine of the Indochina Institute of Human Studies in 1938.

It has been 70 years since the first discovery, and up until now, more than 30 vestiges of Ha Long culture have been researched and excavated. A panorama of this culture is thus more or less complete.

Ha Long culture dated in 4000 – 3500 B.C and was ranked by archaeologists as being after the Stone Age. Prehistoric people chose Northeastern Vietnam due to bountiful seafood resources, beaches and caves for their settlement. The sea was shallow, about 10m depth with 20 narrow passages from the gulf to the ocean, protecting them from strong winds and helping them to catch fish in the sea. Archaeologists found many huge fish bones, which may be evidence of enormous fish of the prehistoric period. They caught them using nets with big leads, but also fished for several types of mollusk, as stated by archaeologists.

Along with working the sea, Ha Long people also farmed for their living, as proves the excavation of many tools such as landrail and axes… They made these stone instruments by sharpening, sawing, drilling and polishing… They could also make ceramics by kneading soil, then firing and decorating them with literary patterns. Planting trees for making nets was a popular career. Carpentry was prosperous for constructing ships. Several discoveries of ceramics and a striking culture are evidence for a long settlement of Ha Long people.

Ancient people also liked to use make-up. They favored making jewelries from shells such as cypraea shells for necklaces, fish bones and mollusk shells for bracelets…In addition to this, they made bracelets by sharpening, drilling, carving and polishing stones. Stone drills uncovered on the site are proof for sophisticated processes of creating these artifacts. Sunken graters, which are called “Ha Long marks”, of Ha Long culture are different from those of other cultures.

Archaeologists found several bones of Ha Long culture men. These reveal that they were Mongoloids with some features of Australoids. It is ancient Ha Long people that contributed to forming the modern Vietnamese community. Before Ha Long settlers lived in Northeastern Vietnam, some earlier cultures had also developed, including Soi Nhu and Cai Beo cultures.

These days, domestic and international visitors can take a tour around Ha Long Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay to hear legends about a dragon (one of the four Vietnamese supernatural creatures of ) landing on this landscape. You will have a chance to see a world heritage site, witness objects located in more than 30 vestiges in archaeological places of the Ha Long culture and outstanding Tuan Chau tourist site.

Finally, it is a “must” to visit the Quang Ninh General Museum, where Ha Long culture objects are on display. It is situated in the centre of Ha Long city, which is very convenient for tourists.

Text by: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Trinh Sinh