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Asian art

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Axe head

3rd century BCE-2nd century BCE


Unknown Artist


Finely cast in good-quality dark green alloy, this axe head is decorated in shallow relief on both sides. The stylised animal, fish and bird motifs are typical of the Dong Son decorative repertoire. On one side along the edges the stylised shapes of two confronting crocodiles frame a squid motif (at the top) and two long beaked aquatic birds standing in a fish-filled pond (bottom). The other side depicts two confronting dragon-like animals above two humped bulls and a man. While similarly shaped battle axes have been found throughout maritime Southeast Asia, the quality and elaborate decoration on this piece indicate it was a ritual object, probably part of the grave goods of a community leader.

The Asian Collections, AGNSW, 2003, pg.298.


Place where the work was made

Viet Nam


3rd century BCE-2nd century BCE

Media category

Arms & armour

Materials used



14.5 x 14.9 cm

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Goldie Sternberg Southeast Asian Art Purchase Fund 1998


Not on display

Accession number



Where the work was made
Viet Nam

Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 6 publications


Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales annual report 1998, 'Collections', pg. 15-19, Sydney, 1998, 18 (colour illus.).

Matt Cox, The Connoisseur and the Philanthropist: 30 years of the Sternberg Collection, "Southeast Asian Art", pg. 25-29, Sydney, 31 Jan 2014, 28 (colour illus.).

Maud Girard-Geslan, TAASA Review, " In the Public Domain: A Dong Son Style Battle Axe", Sydney, Dec 1998, 17 (colour illus.).

Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2003, 298 (colour illus.).

Ann Proctor, Bon Mau Co Ban - Four Colours., Analysis and discussion of selected works from AGNSW, 'Dongson Style Battle Axe - Vietnam', pg. 9-11, Sydney, Feb 2003, 9 (colour illus.), 10-11. section 4

Bon Mau Co Ban - Four Colours. Vietnamese Art Case Study, Sydney, Feb 2003, not paginated, (colour illus.). section 5