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


Who is my ancestor?

When I traced the history of my family, I found an interesting fact that the first founder of my mother’s family was one of Kaxinga’s general, Han-Chau JIAN(簡漢超). Koxinga is the establisher of Kingdom of Tungning, a kingdom to against Qing Empire in late 17th century (1662-1683) in Taiwan. Followed with Koxinga, Han-Chau JIAN (簡漢超) attended the battle between the Dutch in the Fort Zeelandia, and eventually stayed in Tainan area. JIAN became the very first founder of my mother’s family.

JianFigure 1: The burial of Han-Chau JIAN

Surrender_of_ZeelandiaFigure 2: The battle in the Fort Zeelandia  (

The battle between Koxinga and the Dutch was a significant event for Taiwan. After this battle all Europeans left Taiwan basically but Taiwan was already entangled into world system due to the colonization of European. The Indigenous society had been altered or influenced by the contact or colonization processes. In Southwest Taiwan, many lands were transformed into sugar plantation, and this process stimulated the speed of Hanization to local Indigenous. In the place where my ancestor settled have many local indigenous people, and according to some historical records, the marriage between Han people and indigenous people is not uncommon. Therefore, I believe that there is Indigenous blood in my family.

Before the study of family history, I never consider about how close between Taiwan history and me or my family. I think that every family history tells not only their personal story but also the historical background in that time.

templeFigure 3: The ancestral shrine of Jian

My “Sweet” Hometown—we are what we eat

“Why Tainan food is so sweet?” This is a common question or maybe just complaint that my classmates will ask me when I studied in Taipei. I never realized this fact when I lived in Tainan before 18 until I first leaved my hometown. The food in Taipei is good, but I always feel that it can be better if they put more sugar in it even my friends think it is sweet enough. The foods I like always have the common feature: sweet, for me, this is not only a flavor, but also a familiar memory.

Tainan is located at Southern Taiwan, and is known for its old history, temples , and traditional snack food. Not just my classmates, I am also wondering why the Tainan people prefer the sweet flavor. The only way to find the origin of the traditional flavor is to dig the history. There are many different stories, and the oldest one could be related to colonial period by Dutch. When Dutch occupied Taiwan in the 17th century, they found that it is a suitable place to cultivate cane and produce sugar, which was an economic product in that time. Because of the landscape and the condition of whether, the plain in Tainan is one of the main places to plant cane.


Figure1: The Dutch map for a port in Tainan

In the colonial period by Japan (1895-1945), Japanese also cultivate cane and build several sugar factories in Tainan. Dues to the easier access to sugar, it is a common condiment for Tainan peoples. Another story is that because most Han people in Tainan come from Fuzhou (in Southeastern China), the sweet flavor is a traditional style of their cuisine.


Figure: The sugar factory in colonial period by Japan

Although these stories provide some explanation for the reason of sweet food, some arguments is hard to prove only through the oral history. Maybe the archaeology can tell us more different stories. If we can find the material culture which can be associated with the sugar, we might be able to trace back this cultural tradition. Whether we can find the real answer or not, I know that I will always love this sweet flavor. It is like a kind of identity which passes down from generation to generation.

Just as Twiss(2007) said, “We are what we eat”. From the sweet flavor, I find my identity and my sweet hometown.

Twiss, Katheryn C.   2007   The archaeology of food and identity. [Carbondale, Ill.]: Center for Archaeological Investigations, Southern Illinois University Carbondale.



Travel items– Dandy flask

P1100715 拷貝 (1)

Dandy flask has vertical/parallel sides, and the short base pedestal which is almost as wide as the body. The stopper finish and body shape indicate that it might contain liquor, such as whiskey or bitters. This type of bottle was primarily produced from 1890 to 1920 according to its straight finish. Because after 1920, the external screw threads finish is the dominant style. Similar bottle had been appeared on the catalog of Illinois Glass Company in 1906, which also indicates the possible production.

The shape of this kind of bottles originates in the need for traveling. Because of the relative small and flat shape, it is easy to carry or place in one’s pocket. Most flasks has a capacity of about 16oz. or less. Although flasks have wide variety of shapes, they have similar “portable” size, and laterally compressed on two sides.

Due to the characteristic of flask bottles, travelers might be the major customers, and they might usually consume it outside when they are traveling. However, it is also possible to consume it at home, even uncommon. The portable characteristic also indicates its practical function and the possibility of reuse. Flasks

Brief History of Butler Building in Seattle

The Butler Building, also known as Butler Block, is located at the corner of Second Avenue and James Street in Pioneer Square. The story of this building could be traced back to 1875. At first, this property was owned by Hillory Butler, whose surname became the name of this building. At that time, Butler Block (Courtesy UW library Special Collection order number:PSE080) was a three-story wooden building, and it was burned in the Seattle Fire in 1889.

In 1889 to1890, Guy C. Phinney and Daniel C. Jones partnered to finance the new building, which designed as an office building by Parkinson and Evers. The new building (Courtesy UW library Special Collection order number: BAB03)  was built of bricks and stone blocks, and it has a Romanesque portal with curved “BUTLER BLOCK” on its top. In 1894, this building converted to the Butler Hotel, and became one of Seattle’s most elegant hotels, which was a favorite place for newly-rich miners from the Alaskan Gold Fields, as well as celebrities and politicians. The hotel owned the advanced equipment system in that time, and two more stories were added in 1903 (Courtesy of the Seattle Public Library Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition Digital Collection)

During the Prohibition, because of the flouting of alcohol laws, the Rose Room of the Hotel was closed for one year from 1929. Soon after, the Butler Hotel was closed on September, 1933 due to the Depression. Eventually, the property was auctioned on January, 1934.

In the late 1930s, the upper 5 floors were removed and remodeled into a garage. Only the first two stories remained its original appearance. The garage was owned by Sam Israel’s Samis Foundation from 1997 to 2001, who is a major Downtown Seattle landowner. The garage was remodeled again and serves as parking lot for public. Nowadays, the garage( was owned by Walton Street Capital, L L C, of Chicago, IL..

About historical pictures, I found that it is not easy to find pictures before the hotel period. And some paintings on postcards tend to have similar views and details about the building, which might come from a same one. However, there are still some differences between these similar paintings. This might be the bias that we should avoid.




4. “‘The Butler Garage'”, The Argus, January 6, 1934, p. 2.

5. Grant, Frederic James, “History of Seattle, Washington with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers“, American Publishing and Engraving Co., 1891, p. 214.



A story behind gravestones

From the survey of gravestones in Calvary cemetery, we found that there are some differences between men’s and women’s gravestone . In the early period (1880-1930), men’s gravestone has more diversity of shape than women’s, such as tablet, round column, pulpit, and obelisk. In the middle and late period, the common shapes of gravestone for both female and male are block and monument (see Graph1 and 2). About the materials, marble gravestones are more common in female group in the early period than male.

When we examine the seriation of gravestone shapes (see Graph3), we find that obelisk is an earlier common shape, and then it was replaced by monument and vertical slab. The block is the most common style from 1880 to most recent. On the other hand, from 1880 to 1920, there are many different kinds of gravestone shape. However, after 1920, the diversity of shapes is less than previous period. From 1930 to 2000, the common shapes are block, monument and vertical slab. After 1990, the recent popular shape of gravestone looks like s chair.

Based on this seriation, we know that the diversity of gravestone from 1880 to 1920 represents the men’s gravestone. And in the early period, the common obelisk style is only observed in male group in this case, which might indicate the different treatment to gender. After 1930, there is no big difference between female and male. This could be also observed from the kinship terms on the gravestone. In the early period, “father” is commonly appear in the male gravestone, but the kinship terms in female gravestone is “wife of…” instead of ”mother”. In the latter period, there is no obvious difference about kinship terms. This transformation might reflect the gender equality after 1930.

Graph1: shapes of female gravestone

Graph2: shapes of male gravestone

Graph3: shapes of gravestone in different periods

Ritmeyer Archaeological Design

This blog provides the latest research, analysis, and products in Biblical archaeology by Archaeological designers, especially on issues related to the Temple Mount and Jerusalem. Ritmeyer Archaeological Design began in 1983. At first, they produce posters and booklets for educational materials of Biblical Archaeology. Later, they expand their product to offer archaeological background to groups such as Hollywood movie companies. The articles are sorted by categories, which is readable for reader to find particular issues. And I think it is good idea that every article has illustrations to support their contents. It is also informative to people who interested in Biblical archaeology.

Stone Pages Archaeo News

This blog provides comprehensive news on the latest findings and excavations around the world. It was started in 1996 by Paola Arosio and Diego Meozzi, who interested in European megalithic sites and other ancient monuments. Later, this blog was expanded to cover latest researches or findings around the world. Most articles are news or reports and they are readable to average people. The articles was organized according to temporal order, however, the front page only shows the latest news. It seems that we cannot access to previous articles. I think the blog will be better if they could sort the previous articles to accessible categories.


This blog provides the Southeast Asia archaeological news, which would be helpful for who devote to Southeast Asia studies. The Southeast Asian Archaeology news blog was created in May 2006 by Noel Hidalgo Tan, who is a PhD candidate at the Department of Archaeology and Natural History at the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University. His initial aim is to keep track of the archaeology news in the Southeast Asia, but now this blog has expanded to cover podcasts, links, and books. I think it is interesting that every posted article has a map to indicate the location it mentions. It is a good idea to make reader understand the context of the article. And I think the organization is also well and readable.


The most contents in this blog are personal research, opinion or latest information about archaeology. There is no obvious link about introduction of this blog, so we did not what is the background of these authors. Some articles is readable for average people, and others would be difficult for people who did not major in archaeology. This blog is organized both by categories and temporal order, in which we can easily search what we interested in. I think this blog is good and worth further exploring, because many articles are thoughtful. The only thing they should improve is to provide some information about the background of this blog.