The archeological excavations carried out around Hoi An in the 1990s discovered large numbers of Sa Huỳnh Culture relics. The collections of Sa Huỳnh artifacts, including pottery burial jars, jewelry and iron objects, are displayed at the Museum of Sa Huỳnh Culture , No. 149 Trần Phú Street, Hoi An.
The collection of iron objects includes 28 items recovered at 4 relic sites: Hậu Xá I (5 items), Hậu Xá II (18 items), Xuân Lâm (3 items), An Bang (3 items).
Dozens of iron artifacts from Sa Huỳnh culture with a variety of forms were found in Hoi An such as matchets, knives, spears, spades, a curved dagger and chisels.
The iron objects can be divided into two groups- labour tools and weapons.
- Labour tools: 22 items including matchets, chisels, spades and knives.
2. Weapons: 6 items including a curved dagger, spear and knives.
Spades make up a large number of items in the labour tools group (9/22 items). They were a common farm tool in agriculture. The blades were sharp and thin, with a collar for inserting the handle. Their tips are 8-14cm long.
Knives and matchets also were common farm tools (10/22 items). They were typical farm tools regularly appearing in Sa Huỳnh sites in Hoi An. The butcher knives are 18-30cm long. The blades were 2.5-4.5cm wide and they were used for cutting or chopping. The matchet is curved in shape, with a large and thick blade. It is 35-40cm long and was used for cutting plants, branches and bushes when preparing cultivation fields.
Chisels were also found ( 3/22 items). They have a sharp blade and are 1.6-4 cm long. They have a straight, cylindrical shape and were a common carpenter tool used for building houses and boats. The appearance of this tool in Sa Huỳnh archeological sites indicates the development of carpentry by Sa Huỳnh inhabitants, and, apart from other activities, indicates their capacity to build seafaring vessels.
There was a parallel between Sa Huỳnh culture and Chinese culture (Han Dynasty) that was shown in sharp pointed weapons such as a curved dagger (1/6 items) and small sharp knives (2/6 items).
The iron objects were made using a forging heat technique. Remnants caused by forged work were found at connection points or on the surface of spades and knives. However, evidence of blacksmiths’ tools such as anvils, clamps and pliers have not appeared in Sa Huỳnh excavation sites of Hoi An.
The collection of iron artifacts on display at the museum indicates that iron objects were common and necessary tools in the daily life of Sa Huỳnh inhabitants.
Iron artifacts were also found inside burial jars. Prior to their intended use to store the remains of the deceased, these large sized pots, a distinct feature of Sa Huỳnh culture, were utilised for everyday storage requirements.
The variety in forms of iron artifacts discovered at these sites clearly indicates the development of farming and carpentry by Sa Huỳnh inhabitants.
The parallel between Sa Huỳnh iron artifacts with iron artifacts of the Chinese Han Dynasty and the Đông Sơn culture at the North Vietnam indicates that there existed a trading relationship early in Hội An’s history. Perhaps it can also be extrapolated that this is one of the fundamental reasons for the establishment of Hội An town, leading eventually to its pre-eminence as an international commercial port in the 17th-18th century.
The similar forms and production techniques of iron artifacts found at Hội An and other sites in Quảng Nam provice such as Đại Lãnh (Đại Lộc – Quảng Nam) and Gò Mã Vôi (Duy Xuyên – Quảng Nam) indicates that iron played an important role in the crystallization and uniformity of the culture in central Vietnam in pre-historic period.
The collection of iron artifacts in the museums of Hoi An belongs to a lost civilization of Vietnam. Researching Sa Huỳnh iron artifacts is an opportunity to discover different aspects of this culture including their artistic, economic and technological development. However, iron artifacts are usually adversely affect by such long periods (up to 5000 years) of time underground. Therefore, it is necessary to carry out preservation work immediately, to ensure scientific research, preservation, promotion and display of these artifacts can continue in the future.
Hoi An Museum