The Agency of Indigenous People

Due to the special geographical location and economic competition between Europeans, Taiwan was occupied by Spain and Dutch in the early 17th century and involved in the world system that was brought by Europeans. We often found a lot imported materials from archeological sites of this period. How did indigenous people treat these foreign objects? Did they accept, resist, or incorporate them into their daily life? Through archaeology, we are able to answer these questions.

From Kiwulan site in Northeastern Taiwan, we found rich imported materials including beads, ceramics, iron artifacts, and pipes. Through usage contexts of imported materials from living area and burials, as well as written records by Spanish, Dutch, and Chinese, we find that the indigenous people incorporated these foreign objects into their own culture and used them to achieve their purpose, such as respect obtaining.

They intentionally selected particular ceramics and beads to be grave goods. Furthermore, the agates beads might be specific grave goods for women, which relates to their traditional ritual. The decorations on the surface of pipes can be also seen on local wooden boards. Wooden boards are important symbolic artifacts usually placed in front of households by indigenous people to show their prestige, and the decoration on it is a human-like figure which refers to their holy ancestor. The similar figure on pipes indicates indigenous people incorporate the foreign habit into their daily life.

The result shows that the indigenous people accepted these materials through daily practice and they negotiated with other ethnic groups through barter. We can have a better understanding when we consider the relationship in the process of exchange and view barter as a negotiation. The real relationship is intertwined interaction among different ethnic groups including indigenous people, European colonists, and Han people, which all contribute to the imported material contexts of this site.

pipeDecorations on pipes


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