Dong Son culture, 1st – 2nd century AD
L. 24 cm or 9 ½ in
The scales consist of three objects: a stick with two hanging rings, a weight, and a basket-like disc to be suspended with rope. In principle the stick must have had a rope at its midpoint to suspend it from while weighing. In the laboratory the researcher found traces of fabric on the stick, either from a piece of clothing or from part of the bag the scales were kept in.
The weight is shaped like a droplet or a penis. On top of the weight, two men sit back-to-back in the Buddha position, their arms on their knees. They are naked except for loincloths and some spiral markings can be seen on their shoulders. They are linked to the weight. There is a bronze ring between the heads of the two figures; it’s used to suspend the weight from the end of the balance stick.
At the other end of the stick would hang the round disc. It is shaped like a round sun in the center with rays branching out from it. The disc has eight small rings on its bottom side where a rope could have been run to hang it from the stick. In practice, the disc is too small to counterbalance the weight, so the scales may perhaps have been only symbolic or ceremonial.
The scales may be made of bronze with a high iron content. The three parts were cast using a lost-wax mold. X-ray images very clearly show traces of the wax used to mold the disc.
Such scales can be seen in the collections of the Barbier-Mueller Museum in Geneva, and those of Martin Doustar in Paris and Karim Gussmayer in Geneva. No archaeological context has yet been found for this kind of scales. Laboratory researchs confirmed the good condition of the scales except for some small crack repairs on the disc and on the stick. We can date such scales from around 1st-2nd CE, putting it in the Pre-Funan Period.
Provenance : Collection Privée, Belgique.
Art Loss Register Certificate, ref. S00097035
- Monique Crick, Art ancien du Viêt Nam, Bronzes et céramiques, 5 Continents (Ed), Collections Baur, Musée des Arts d’Extrême-Orient, Genève, 2008.
- Nancy Tingley, Arts of Ancient Vietnam, From River Plain to Open Sea, Asia Society, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
- Charles Higham, The Bronze Age of Southeast Asia, Cambridge University Press, 1996.