Mar 02, 2023

By Andy Johnson

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Imagine the surprise when researchers in Vietnam encountered deer antlers, languishing in museum storage, that turned out to be 2,000 year old musical instruments.

The antlers were excavated in Vietnam in the 1990s and thought, at the time, to be no more than unusual, if well-preserved, artifacts.

However, the objects have now been found to represent something far rarer – not just the oldest animal bones found in Southeast Asia, but the earliest-known stringed instruments to be unearthed in the region.

The antlers are believed to have come from a Sambar deer or an Indian hog deer which are species native to mainland Southeast Asia. They date back at least two millennia.

Visiting archaeologists from the Australian National University examined the objects several years ago and have now determined they are in fact single-stringed musical instruments.

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