Identity and community structure in Neolithic Man Bac, Northern Vietnam

Marc Oxenham* (Corresponding Author), Hiep Hoang Trinh, Hirofumi Matsumura, Kate Domett, Damien Huffer, Rebecca Crozier, Nguyen Lan Cuong, Clare McFadden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This paper explores the evidence for social structuring principles and other aspects of identity at Man Bac, an early Neolithic (2066-1523 cal. BCE) community in northern Vietnam. Drawing on a wealth of work over the past 15 years, we examine identity with respect to three fundamental classes of data: intrinsic biological variables (age-at-death, sex, kin group, biological ancestry), mortuary treatment, and body modification (patterned tooth removal, or ablation). We find that kin groups, biologically and affinally defined, likely played a substantive structuring role at Man Bac. Moreover, a political tension between genetically and phenotypically distinct groups inhabiting Man Bac appears to be visible in the mortuary record. Social organization aside, shells appear to have had a significant role in referencing cosmological and gendered aspects of identity. Nephrite, with regard to some artefact types, would appear to cite magico-religious and/or elite status components of identity. While unique items, such as a ceramic copy of a barrel drum, may have spoken to exchanges of shamanistic beliefs between northern Vietnam and what is now southern China. Identity at Man Bac would appear to have been complex, fluid, negotiable, and ever changing; or just what one might expect.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100282
Number of pages13
JournalArchaeological Research in Asia
Early online date18 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2021


  • Funerary archaeology
  • Body modification
  • Kinship
  • Shell objects
  • Nephrite ornaments
  • Ceramic drums


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