Diverse ceramic technologies in Neolithic southern Vietnam: the case of Rach Nui

Carmen Sarjeant, Phillip J. Piper, Nguyen Khanh Trung Kien, Ngoc Kinh Dang, DO Thi Lan, Peter Bellwood, Marc Oxenham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The initial appearance of fine, incised and impressed ceramics dating to the Neolithic period (4200-3000 B.P.) in southern Vietnam was associated with the emergence and spread of sedentary settlements, cereal agriculture, and new forms of material culture. However, differences existed in contemporary ceramic technologies between sites. This paper presents a preliminary characterization of the pottery found at Rach Nui, located at the confluence of the Vam Co Dong, Dong Nai and Vam Co Tay rivers, a habitation site where the economy focused
primarily on vegeculture and foraging. The rim forms and decorations at Rach Nui are presented, alongside a characterization of the tempers and clays from a small sample of sherds using scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive x-ray spectrometry (SEM-EDX). The Rach Nui ceramics are compared to previous studies on An Son pottery, located upstream on the Vam Co Dong River. The results of the characterization and comparison indicate that Rach Nui
potters focused on local production of a limited range of vessels compared to primarily agricultural settlements, like An Son. This research on Rach Nui pottery demonstrates that by c. 3500 B.P., the inhabitants of the various Neolithic settlements of southern Vietnam, and perhaps more broadly across Mainland Southeast Asia, had established their own social and cultural traditions as reflected in locally specific ceramic technologies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190-219
Number of pages30
JournalAsian Perspectives
Issue number2
Early online date30 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

We would like to thank the principal archaeologists and support team (Anna Willis, Noel Amano, Fredeliza Campos, Cristina Cobo Castillo, Jasminda Ceron, Lê Hoàng Phong, Nguyễn Hoàng Bách Linh, Bùi Xuân Long, and Văn Ngọc Bích) involved in the Rach Nui project, including local villagers. Further, the help and assistance of the Long An Provincial Museum was crucial to the success of this project, through Director Bùi Phát Diệm and Deputy Director Vu'ỏng Thu Hồng. The comments from Mathieu Leclerc and anonymous reviewers were greatly appreciated during revisions of this article. The Rach Nui SEM-EDX work was conducted at CAMCOR, University of Oregon, courtesy of Alison Carter and the Southeast Asian Archaeology Lab, Department of Anthropology, University of Oregon. All Rach Nui SEM-EDX samples were prepared by Julie Chouniard at CAMCOR. This work was supported by the Australian Research Council (grant numbers DP110101097, FT120100299, and FT100100527).


  • ceramic technology
  • geochemical analysis
  • diversification
  • environmental adaptation
  • Neolithic
  • southern Vietnam


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