Prof. Charles Higham and Vietnamese Archaeology

VNU University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Vietnam

While Prof. Charles Higham is a familiar and prominent face among foreign archaeologists working in Thailand, he has never excavated in Vietnam. Nevertheless, he has a familiarity with Vietnamese archaeology, has visited the country, and provided some invaluable insights into regional archaeological research through discussions with Vietnamese archaeologists for over forty years. His publications and major textbooks have provided useful syntheses of Vietnamese prehistory for those scholars working in Southeast Asia, and have also aided Vietnamese archaeologists in situating their research within broader regional frameworks. However, Vietnamese archaeological research output is often in Vietnamese language, and this can present serious problems for non-Vietnamese speaking scholars attempting to follow contemporary archaeological discourse amongst the Vietnamese archaeological community. In 2000, whilst participating in the International Scientific Conference "One Century of Vietnam Archaeology," Prof. Higham presented a paper entitled "Vietnamese Archaeology viewed from the outside" where he addressed problems associated with the use of the three age-system in Vietnamese archaeology. These included key questions on the introduction of rice-cultivation, origin of bronze metallurgy in Vietnam, the Sa Huỳnh culture, and the relationship between Sa Huỳnh and Champa. On this occasion of honouring Prof. Higham’s career achievements, I address some of the issues he raised in 2000 with regards to Vietnamese prehistory, focussing on new perspectives in Vietnamese archaeology, the dating of rice cultivation of the Phùng Nguyên culture, the mosaic nature of Sa Huỳnh culture, and the relationship between Sa Huỳnh - Champa.