More than 100 relics of the Dong Son civilization whose display opened at the Vietnam History Museum in Hanoi on Thursday showcase the resilience of Vietnamese culture, says museum director Pham Quoc Quan.
They also show the role of culture in forging a distinct Vietnamese identity, he said.
The Tieng vong Dong Son (Echo of Dong Son) exhibit, with items being shown for the first time, marks the 85th year since the ruins of the prehistoric Bronze Age civilization were first discovered.
Dong Son culture was centered at the Red River Delta more than 2,500 years ago and its influence is also seen in other parts of Southeast Asia.
A candlestick with a human shape and an urn exhibited along with other relics of the Dong Son civilization at Vietnam History Museum in Hanoi
The exhibits include lamps in the shape of a person or animals like giraffes, elephants and bulls. The lamps had been buried with their owners.
There is one lamp that describes a ritual sacrifice.
Others artifacts include bracelets, breastplates, bronze drums, bronze jars and knives with the handles decorated with human and fish images.
The decorations depicting boats and boatmen on the Dong Son drums show the importance of rivers in the culture.
It is still not clear what exactly the drums were used for.
The Dong Son drums are different from bronze drums found in Chinese Guangdong and Guangxi, as they are decorated with reliefs rather than statues.
Archeologists have gathered enough evidence to prove that Dong Son is a native culture of Vietnamese people, not an imported one.
The civilization flourished during the Bronze Age around the Hong, Ma and Ca rivers in the northern region.
Its traits lasted until the Tran Dynasty (1225-1400).
Museum director Quan said the Chinese wanted to dissolve the Vietnamese culture when they invaded and dominated the country for more than 1,000 years.
"But Vietnam didn't lose its [particular] distinctions while acquiring cultural features from outside."
Any relic left from the Dong Son civilization "has Vietnamese characters in it," Quan said.
Quan said by putting Dong Son relics together, Vietnamese archeologists have concluded that the structure of Dong Son civilization had already developed into a class-based society.
Pottery tools and jewelry also show the relationship between Dong Son culture and Sa Huynh culture (1000 BCE-200 AD) in central and southern Vietnam.
A recent excavation at the central province of Ha Tinh found many forms of burial were strongly influenced by Dong Son culture.
The echo of the culture can also be seen in stilt houses in the Central Highlands.
Dong Son culture has left such a widespread influence that excavators cannot say how many relics are likely to be found in the future.
The exhibition at the Vietnam History Museum will be open until the end of June.