| Makalamau, heirloom kettledrum

Dong Son culture
collected Sangeang Island, Sumbawa, Indonesia

Makalamau, heirloom kettledrum 1st century BCE-2nd century CE
83.5 (h) cm 116.0 cm (diameter)
National Museum of Indonesia, Jakarta


The Dong Son culture developed in Vietnam’s Red River delta from the middle of the first millennium BCE. Dong Son bronzes were highly valued and traded throughout Southeast Asia. The Makalamau, as it was known to villagers on the small island of Sangeang near Sumbawa, was one of a group of drums recorded by Dutch officials in 1937. At that time the drum was in active ritual use, valued for its efficacy in attracting rain and causing fire in enemy villages.

It is possible that in Dong Son cosmology, the frogs around the drum’s tympanum were associated with rain and fertility while the central star denoted the sun. The intricate depictions of ceremonial and everyday scenes include boats manned by figures in extravagant headdresses and houses of a type which, 2000 years later, remain popular in many parts of Southeast Asia.

Subscribe to newsletter

You can also follow developments on twitter or facebook