Bowl with thick rolled rim and two-graph stamped inscription

  • Earthenware
  • 11.3 x 19 cm
  • 18th-mid 20th century, Nguyen Lords period, Tay Son or Nguyen dynasty
  • Origin: Dong Nai province, Southern Vietnam
  • Provenance: Mekong River Delta, Southern Vietnam
  • Gift of Osborne and Gratia Hauge, and Victor and Takako Hauge
  • S2004.163

Description

Wide-mouthed vessel (bowl) with thick rim, unadorned. Inscription stamped on outside near rim: "new spring," in two Chinese characters within horizontal oval cartouche. Wheel thrown. Some sort of dark incrustation inside.

Curatorial Remarks

1. (Louise Cort, 11 July 2002) The Hauges acquired this vessel as "Oc Eo." They knew a Vietnamese military officer stationed in the Mekong delta area; he recovered pots from the swampy margins of rivers during the low-water season. Such pots were said to be "from Oc Eo."

Mrs. Tran Thi Thanh Dao, Museum of Vietnamese History, Ho Chi Minh City, believes this piece is from Oc Eo, based on similar pieces in her museum identified as coming from Oc Eo, collected after 1975 from Oc Eo by a museum staff member. He collected them near Vong The mountain. They were discarded by local people who had been digging for gold and other Oc Eo-era artifacts or digging their fields for planting. See also S2004.49, 99, 124, 162, and 164.

2. (Louise Cort, 12 February 2005) When discussing this pot, we did not notice the Chinese language inscription beneath the rim. This suggests that the potters were Chinese—either working in China or working in the Chinese-run kilns north of Saigon. This also gives a clue to the type of potters who made all the other wheel-thrown earthenware vessels with thick rolled rims in the Hauge collection.

The incrusted material adhering to the interior of this vessel should be analyzed.

3. (Louise Cort, 13 May 2005) The Hauges owned a copy of Malleret's 1960 publication on Oc Eo and employed it to confirm the pieces they acquired as "Oc Eo culture." It is important to note that Malleret acquired all his ceramic samples, except those that he excavated from Oc Eo, as surface finds located in the course of general surveys of other sites (Malleret 1960, 92).

Malleret summarized his vision of Oc Eo culture ceramics drawn from such surveys: "Ceramics held a considerable role in the material life of the ancient inhabitants of the Transbassac. Judging from the enormous mass of fragments that lie scattered under the sun in Oc Eo and occur in compact sheets at certain levels, one is inclined to think that the ceramic industry occupied an important place among their activities. In fact, it seems that one was in the presence of a city whose population had been dense and had deposited enormous accumulations of debris over several centuries. But pottery was not mixed solely into the domestic aspect, where it was manifest as stoves, as cooking pots, as diverse containers, as lamps, as rattles for infants. It had furnished containers and crucibles for metallurgists, net weights for fishermen, spindle-whorls for the preparation of thread from textile fibers, and perhaps also stamps for impressing patterns onto woven cloth.... It is possible that pottery served numerous additional offices in a commercial setting in a maritime location." He goes on to mention the probable roles of small-mouthed vessels for storage and transport of foodstuffs, including oils and salt; of straight-necked jars for holding liquids and creating an air-tight seal necessary for fermenting fish sauce (nuoc mam); of small, wide-mouthed vessels for domestic storage of materials in the kitchen, as well as for unguents, perfumes, medicines, cosmetics, and rouge (although they were easily portable and could have been commercial items). He proposes that ceramic containers, along with wooden ones, served to transport raw materials and finished products of the important industries of Oc Eo (including gold jewelry, glass and stone beads, bronze and tin metallurgy) (ibid., 92–93). He describes necks of large jars over forty centimeters in diameter, presumably used for storing rainwater (ibid., 94).

Malleret studied 291 whole objects and more than 2000 sherds (787 from systematic excavations). He found five types of earthenware body (ibid., 98–100, analysis in Appendix I, 353–357):
(I) unfired or very low fired, without sand (including crucibles and spindle-whorls);
(II) red clay containing considerable sand and mica, naturally occurring in the clay, which seemingly was used without adding additional temper, formed by hand or on the potter's wheel into fishnet weights, stoves, and lids for cooking pots. Even when the exterior is fired red or gray, the interior may retain the color of ochre earth. Some appear to have been slipped;
(III) red clay with added fine sand temper, possibly derived from ground laterite containing particles of limonite; worked by hand or on the wheel;
(IV) blackish clay containing little sand, blackened by firing in reduction, sometimes with burnished surface, worked by hand or on the wheel, found in the lowest levels beneath the brick monuments at Oc Eo;
(V) fine paste, sometimes hard but usually soft, of homogenous, well-processed texture, variously rose, salmon, gray, or yellowish in color, sometimes appearing to contain temper made from prefired and ground clay, used mainly for special products with a certain "artistic cachet."

In addition, (VI) much higher fired than the previous five types, like stoneware, showing a connection to glazed Khmer stoneware, suggesting a Khmer occupation level at Oc Eo.

Malleret, Louis. 1960. La civilisation matérielle d'Oc-Eo. L'Archéologie du Delta du Mékong, tome 2. Publications de l'École Française d'Extrême-Orient, Vol. XLIII. Paris: l'École Française d'Extrême-Orient.

4. (Louise Cort, 24 May 2007) A pot of this type and this size in the Museum of Vietnamese History, Ho Chi Minh City (acc. no. 14566) is said to have been recovered from the Dong Nai riverbed. It has a hole drilled through the center of the base.

5. (Louise Cort, 28 May 2007) The ceramics storeroom of the Dong Nai Museum in Bien Hoa contains ceramics recovered within the province, primarily from the Dong Nai River, especially in the vicinity of Bien Hoa. The collection includes numerous bowls of this type (filling five shelves), with diameters including 12, 16, 18, 20 and 23.5 cm. A label associated with them reads: suu tap coi, 17–18 century.

I wonder if bowls of this type were used to vend certain goods and served, in their graded sizes, as units of measure as well as containers. That is the case for earthenware bowls made in Puri, Orissa, India used for "carry-out" in shops selling yogurt, sweets in syrup, and so forth. The bowls were named after their capacity.

6. (Louise Cort, 28 January 2009) On the basis of research described above, changed the Geography for this group of bowls from Vietnam to Southern Vietnam, Dong Nai province. To Period added Nguyen lords period, Tay Son or Nguyen dynasty. Changed Date from 200–600 CE (the date initially given when these pieces were first accessioned as "Oc Eo") to 18th–mid 20th century.


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