Two well-preserved antlers that were stored on a museum shelf in Southeast Asia for decades have received recent attention. According to a study published in Antiquity, researchers recently discovered that the antlers are the oldest animal bones found in the region—as well as the earliest known stringed instruments in the region. They’re “chordophones,” which were played with a bow while seated.

The two 13-inch chordophones were initially excavated in Vietnam in the 1990s. The study’s authors estimate that they’re around two thousand years old. Peg holes at one end of each artifact suggest that they are instruments. The holes were possibly used for tuning a single string.  

“No other use for it makes sense,” Australian National University archaeologist Fredeliza Campos told Artnet News. “The striking similarities between the artifacts we studied and some stringed instruments that are still being played suggest that traditional Vietnamese music has its origins in the prehistoric past.”

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What Kind of Antlers Are They Made Of?

The researchers write that Sambar deer or Indian hog deer are the most likely species of ungulates that the antlers are derived from. Both species are native to Southeast Asia. Male Sambar deer can weigh more than 1,000 pounds, which is heavier than bull elk. They are most active at night and have manes known to flare when threatened by predators such as leopards and tigers. Indian hog deer are much smaller than Sambars. They have short legs and run with their heads down like pigs, which explains their name. They weigh up to 200 pounds.