For the past 30 years, Văn Đình Thành has travelled widely to collect ancient stones, which have helped scientists and ordinary people understand more about prehistoric times.
The 67-year-old, based in Kon Tum City, the Central Highlands province of Kon Tum, now possesses a collection of 15,000 ancient objects that belonged to prehistoric people of various eras.
Thành keeps the objects like his treasure. — VNS Photo Phạm Hoàng
Thành said after graduating from Phú Thọ Technique Institute in the northern province of Phú Thọ as an engineer, he studied two more years at the institute and stayed there to work as a teacher for five years.
He then returned to Kon Tum to live and worked for a machinery collective.
In 1989, he went to Lung Leng Village, Sa Bình Commune, Sa Thầy District, with a friend to work at a local gold mine, which was not banned at that time. Since then, he has collected many strange stones.
Thành introduces his treasures to a visitor. — VNS Photo Phạm Hoàng
“At that time, only people searching for gold and locals could find strange stones,” he recalled. “Locals here were very poor. So I exchanged food and clothes for strange stones, mostly in the form of axes and hoes like working tools of early people."
"Though they are dead stones, they have special attractions to me,” he said.
By 1990, Thành had collected more than 2,000 big and small stones.
He then time read articles and knew the stones were made intentionally by early people.
In 1993, researcher Nguyễn Khắc Sử, head of the Stone Age Research Department of the Việt Nam Social Science Academy, and some colleagues visited Thành and stayed at his home for seven days to research the stones.
“Sử explained the stones to me,” Thành said. “The stones that seemed to have no value have been defined as priceless stone working tools that were used in the daily life of early people living in the Central Highlands.”
Thanks to Sử’s instruction, Thành could classify the stones into different groups of different eras, forms and materials.
In his old house, valuable objects dating back thousands of years are placed tidily on cupboards.
Stone objects of various eras.
The rest are kept in boxes. Thành keeps a notebook, where he lists all the objects he keeps, as well as where and when he collected them.
He now has 15,000 stone objects.
Thành is planning a private museum to exhibit and preserve objects by prehistoric humans.
“Ancient objects are like my brainchildren with all my enthusiasm,” he said. “The objects are also traditional holy objects handed down by our predecessors."
Thành said he is getting old with health troubles and is worried no one will replace him to preserve the objects.
Thành’s collection contains objects from the later period of the New Stone Age to the early Metal Age, from 4,000-2,000 years ago.
Prof Sử said the most striking value of the collection is the huge materials and diversified objects reflecting different angles of economic, cultural and social activities of prehistoric society in Kon Tum.
“The residents used to live and exploit land areas along the banks of the Đắk Bla and Krông Pôkô rivers, in today’s Sa Thầy District, Đức Cơ District and Kon Tum Town,” Sử noted. — VNS
His collection of stone working tools.