Bronze vessel situla. Vietnam, Dong Son Culture, c. 100 BC – 100 AD .

A large bronze situla, the thinly cast bucket-shaped body with gently sloping sides rising from a flat base and curving slightly inwards at the mouth. Two loop handles are attached to the sides of the vessel, each with an additional horizontal loop beneath it and cast with small S-shaped ornaments to either side. The vessel has three broad registers of crisply cast low relief ornamentation on the exterior, each consisting of several narrower strips of ornament. The top band features a slanted meander to the centre, with a thin strip of chain-link design and a slightly broader band of hatching to either side. The central register is composed of a middle band of meander combined with lozenge pattern, with a band of chain link to either side. The lower part of the vessel has a plain central band with strips of vertical hatching to the top and bottom. As a result of the casting, several small holes puncture the sides of the vessel, some of which were plugged at the time of manufacture. The entire vessel is covered in an attractive sea-green patina.

The shape of this impressive bronze vessel is possibly derived from a wooden prototype. The origin of such vessels is still a subject of debate, but they are usually attributed to the Dong Son culture (500 BC – 300 AD), famed for its bronze technology. The culture is named after the site of Dong Son in Thanh Hoa province in Vietnam. The history of culturally and ethnically diverse Vietnam is complex. The country borders on three southern Chinese provinces: Yunnan, Guangxi and Guangdong, making the precise place of manufacture of situlae such as the present example even more difficult to establish. Similar vessels, sometimes filled with bronze and stone implements, have been found in burials in both Vietnam and South China.

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