Hoa Binh Culture:
By 12,000 BC, the pre-historic people of Viet Nam had abandoned its nomadic life to settle in the Hong (Red) river valley. They lived in caves and rock shelters close to water streams and knew how to make rudimentary stoned tools made in oval, circular or triangle shape with sharp edge. The Hoabinians were mostly hunters but they also cultivated plants to gather fruits and edible roots. This fact suggests domestic cultivation may exist in South East Asia earlier than in the Near East (Iraq) as many Western historians have believed .

Bac Son Culture:
The Bac Son tools were significantly improved from the Hoa Binh's as they were made with ground and polished stone. Hand tools such as choppers and axes were used extensively in hunting and plant cultivation. One important milestone of the Bac Son culture was the introduction of pottery, even though it was still very crude. The Bac Son society was quite developed: Its people lived in tribes headed by a female leader, usually an elder or experienced woman. Some painting and marking found on the wall of their shelters suggested the Bacsonians had an elementary number system they used for counting and record keeping.

Quynh Van Culture:
About the same time of the Bac Son culture, there existed another culture found along the coastal area of North-Central Viet Nam (Nghe Tinh province). The Quynh Van people subsisted mainly on maritime food. Archaeologists have found remains of large fish bone suggesting seaborn fishing had already developed at this time.

Phung Nguyen Culture:
Stone hand tools and weapons improved remarkably in both quantity and variety. Pottery reached a higher level in technique and decoration style. Many forms of craft also existed such as fabric weaving, thread yarning, and rope making. The Phung Nguyen people were mainly agriculturists, they grew the wet rice Oryza, now became their main staple diet. They grouped in communities settled along the large rivers in Northern Viet Nam such as Hong, Da and Lo The first appearance of bronze tools occurred in the later stage of the Phung Nguyen period although these tools were still rare.

Dong Dau and Go Mun Cultures:
Bronze replaced stone for about 40 percent of edged tools and weapons, rising to about 60 percent in the Go Mun culture. Here, there are not only bronze weapons, axes, and personal ornaments, but also sickles and other agriculture tools. Toward the closure of the Bronze Age, bronze accounts for more than 90 percent of tools and weapons, and there are exceptional rich graves-the burial places of powerful chiefdoms-contained some hundred of ritual and personal bronze artifacts such as musical instruments, bucket-shaped ladles and ornament daggers.

Dong Son Culture:
Vietnamese historians have characterized Dong Son as the formation period of the Vietnamese nation . This period is closely identifiable with Van Lang, the first kingdom of Viet Nam, and the 18 Kings Hung, its founders. The nation was ruled with a royal dynasty and a professional administrative class from the capital of Co Loa. The Dong Son culture exerted great influence on its neighbor regions. Historians have established important links from the Dong Son culture with Tibeto-Burman culture, with Thai culture in Yun-nam and Laos, and especially with the Mon-Khmer cultures, particularly the Tran-ninh's Plain of Jars plateau.

The archaeological material from the Dong Son period is very rich, The Dong Son people were skilled agriculturalists, they grew rice and kept buffaloes and pigs. They lived in large huts close to the sea or river, which were built on stilts to keep them clear at high water and had overhanging saddle roofs. They were also skilled fishermen and bold sailors, whose long dug-out canoes traversed all the China sea. This explains both the wealth of their culture and the expansion of their territory.

Minh Bui
Lich Su Viet Nam, Phan Huy Le
The Birth of Viet Nam, Keith Taylor, 1988
The Bronze Drums of Dong Son, Nguyen van Huyen et al.., 1989
Old Civilizations of the World