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A Pair Of Deer Antlers Were Excavated During The 1990s, But Researchers Only Recently Realized These Artifacts Were Actually 2,000-Year-Old Stringed Musical Instruments

frenta - stock.adobe.com - illustrative purposes only, not the actual person

During the 1990s, a pair of deer antlers were excavated in southern Vietnam. At the time, it was believed that they were simply well-preserved artifacts with unusual holes and other markings.

They were also the oldest animal bones to be found in Southeast Asia. For decades, they have been kept in museum storage.

A year ago, researchers realized that the ancient antlers were actually stringed musical instruments, making them the earliest known devices used for music in the region.

The antlers are 13.7 inches long and most likely came from a Sambar deer or a species of Indian hog deer that is native to Southeast Asia.

They are at least 2,000 years old and date back to the pre-Óc Eo culture that once thrived in the Mekong Delta between the second century B.C.E and the 12th century C.E.

The artifacts were discovered alongside three identical bronze bells at the archaeological site of Gò Ô Chùa, which is located along the Mekong River in the Long An province.

After their unearthing, they were sent to the Long An museum, where they remained until a team of archaeologists led by Fredeliza Campos from the Australian National University came to visit.

In 2012 and 2016, they examined the antlers and determined that they were single-stringed musical instruments called chordophones.

The end of one of the antlers had a “perfectly round hole” that seemed to be meant for a peg to fit in for tuning a string. The other antler was damaged, but it had evidence of grooves where a taut string might have been attached.

frenta – stock.adobe.com – illustrative purposes only, not the actual person

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