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10 August 2006
Vietnamese farmer uncovers Neolithic music instrument

A farmer has discovered a 10,000-year-old musical instrument called the dan da (lithophone) in the central province of Binh Thuan (Vietnam). The instrument, comprising eight stone slabs, was unearthed in late July by Nguyen Van Thanh who lives in Ham My District of Ham Thuan Nam Commune.
     The dan da was found about 2m underground in an 300-sq.m area that is now being excavated.Thanh found the dan da with eight urns and earthen tombs buried in a sandy hill behind his house. He said he was frightened by the tombs and discarded the stone slabs near his house's well, not knowing what they were. Nguyen Xuan Ly, Binh Thuan Museum's director, said the dan da dated to the Neolithic (beginning 10,000 BCE).
     The dan da's biggest slab is 95cm long, 17cm wide and 12.5kg in weight, and the smallest, 52.5cm long, 12cm wide and 4.5kg in weight. The sound quality of the instrument is quite good, according to local archaeologists.
     This was the first time the dan da was found in a coastal region and not the Central Highlands area, where several were unearthed years ago. In 1949, ancient lithophones were found by French ethnologist Georges Condominas in the N'Dut Lieng Krac Village of the Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands) Province of Dac Lac. The instrument is now in the French Ethnology Museum in Paris. The second half of the 20th century saw four more dan da turn up in the southern area of the Central Highlands region. In 2004, the biggest lithophone, with 20 stone slabs, was discovered in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong. Ly said further research and excavation was needed in Ham My District to shed light on the differences between Ham My's dan da and the others found in mountainous areas.

Sources: Vietnam News, VietnamNet Bridge (10 August 2006)

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