In 1929, Victor Goloubew, a Russian-born scholar who worked for the French École française d’Extrême-Orient, publshed an article in which he examined some of the materials that had been found by Louis Pajot in his excavations at Đông Sơn.
At that time, it was still not clear to scholars who had originally made the bronze drums. Hirth had argued that they had been created by the Chinese during their expeditions against savages (man 蠻) in the south in the first century CE, whereas De Groot had contended that the bronze drums were created by those very people whom the Chinese had campaigned against.
In his article, Goloubew more or less finds a middle ground between these two theories and argues that the bronze drums were first created in the area of what is today north and north-central Vietnam, but that it was the Chinese who taught the people of this “primitive civilization” how to work with metals.
In addition to arguing where and when the bronze drums were first made, Goloubew also makes statements about the cultural world of the people who made them. Goloubew contends that the first people to make bronze drums were “Indonesiens.”
He determines this by comparing some of the artifacts that Pajot had unearthed and images on a bronze drum that was held at the École française d’Extrême-Orient’s museum in Hanoi, the famous Ngọc Lư bronze drum that had been found in Hà Nam Province in 1903, with ethnographic information about the Dayak in Borneo and the Moi in the Central Highlands.
From these comparisons, Goloubew determines that the creators of the bronze drums shared certain common cultural practices with these Indonesien peoples, and that they therefore must have been Indonesien as well.
On the Ngọc Lư bronze drum, for instance, Goloubew finds a reed instrument similar to the khene played by Lao peoples. However, he argues that the instrument more closely resembles the Dayak keluri, which is also similar in form to a reed instrument played by the Moi.
Daggers found by Pajot likewise resemble daggers used by the Dayak. Another connection with the Dayak is the hairstyle of the people depicted on the Ngọc Lư bronze drum, which Goloubew argues consists of having some hair tied up in a bun, and using a band around the head which hangs down in the back.
Goloubew also suggests that the images of birds on the Ngọc Lư bronze drum might indicate some totemic belief which these peoples upheld.
Finally, Goloubew goes on to discuss at some length the parallels he sees between boat images on the Ngọc Lư bronze drum with the Dayak death ritual known as tiwah in which the dead are symbolically transported by boat to the afterlife.
Goloubew thus concludes that the Ngọc Lư bronze drum represents a primitive civilization, some traces of which can still be found among the Dayak of Borneo. Such a conclusion, he argues, is not surprising given that H. Kern had demonstrated in 1917 the close relations between Malayo-Polonesians and some of the races in Indochina, while in 1925 Henri Mansuy and Madeline Colani had revealed that they had found Indonesien skulls in Ninh Bình and Hòa Bình provinces.
Nonetheless, Goloubew does still find it mysterious that the Indonesien creators of the bronze drums had seemingly disappeared. He surmises that some of them may have been absorbed into the Muong or Cham populations, whereas others, he speculates, had likely set sail in their boats carrying their totemic figures, either out of necessity or a sense of adventure, to conquer and settle new lands.
[Victor Goloubew, “L’Âge du Bronze au Tonkin et dans le Nord-Annam” [The Bronze Age in Tonkin and Northern Annam], Bulletin de l’École française d’Extrême-Orient 29 (1929): 1-46.]