A growing number of scholars from various fields both domestically and abroad are coming to the conclusion that Taiwan is the birthplace of the Austronesian people and language family, and Academia Sinica scholar Liu I-chang (劉益昌) has taken this a step further by proposing that the nexus of this ancient culture 4,000 years ago was Taitung, reported CNA.
Liu yesterday participated in an experiment which demonstrated the seaworthiness of a replica of an ancient Amis bamboo raft that the indigenous Taiwanese tribe may have been capable of building 4,000 years ago. The boat was built based on records of such vessels prior to Japanese colonization in Taiwan and similar craft found in the Philippines and Vietnam half a century ago.
A team of archaeological researchers in Taiwan have uncovered a massive array of ancient remains dating to at least 4,800 years old – including a mother cradling an infant child, possibly her own, in her arms.
Found in central Taiwan in the Taichung region, these remains, which were discovered in excavated graves, are the oldest ever discovered within the area. The most startling discovery by far was the skeleton of the woman, as she seemed to be gazing down lovingly at the child wrapped in her arms, according to the country’s National Museum of Natural Science’s anthropology curator, Chu Whei-lee. The scientist, in a recent interview with Reuters, said the entire team was “shocked” by the tableau.
Excavations at the Taiwanese dig site began in May of 2014, running for approximately a year. For the last several months the 48 sets of remains, five of which were found to have been young children, were subjected to rigorous study. This included carbon dating, which enabled the team to narrow down the age of the fossilized remains to just a few centuries shy of 5,000 years old.
A vast cache of prehistoric artifacts and human remains have been unearthed at an archaeological site in the Tainan Science Park, but none offer concrete evidence explaining an age-old mystery: how ancient settlers from China actually reached Taiwan.
Several million cultural artifacts and faunal and botanic remains have been excavated from over 2,000 burial sites in the science park since the archaeological project kicked off in December 1996, according to Academia Sinica, which is overseeing the work.
The artifacts unearthed have been highly similar to those excavated from archaeological sites along the coasts of southeastern China, said Academia Sinica academician Tsang Cheng-hwa (臧振華) when speaking of the award-winning project with local media last month.
Lab tests of fossils rewrite Taiwan prehistory [Link no longer active]
Taiwan Today, 25 December 2015
In classrooms across the country, children are taught that the first humans in Taiwan arrived at least 20,000 years ago. Lab results from the U.S. and Australia indicate that it could be as few as 3,000.
A Japanese study on the fossils’ manganese content had indicated that the bones were between 20,000 and 30,000 years old, but the reliability of the dating method has more recently been called into question.
To confirm the age of the fossils, the National Taiwan Museum sent a sample to Beta Analytic in Florida, the world’s largest radiocarbon dating laboratory.
Tests returned in September indicated that the bones were 3,000 years old, according to the museum.
Full stories here and here [Link no longer active].
Paola CALANCA, EFEO (French School of Asian Studies)
LIU Yi-ch’ang, Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan
Frank MUYARD, National Central University, Taiwan
Alain THOTE, CRCAO (EPHE)
A possibly 1,800-year-old pottery vessel unearthed over a quarter of a century ago in northern Taiwan was recently put back on display at New Taipei City-based Shihsanhang Museum of Archaeology.
Dug up in 1989 at Shihsanhang Archaeological Site in Bali District, the red-brown earthenware object with a human face on its body is the only one of its kind found in Taiwan. Experts consider the piece to be a burial item, indicating the existence of religious rituals on the island during the Iron Age.
SMA Director Wu Hsiu-tzu said one of the distinctive characteristics of the vessel is the pattern comprising circles and dots on its collar and bottom. “But what really stands out is the expressive face, with its slit-like eyes, protruding eyebrows, delicate mouth and large ears.”
There is an exhibition of prehistoric jade in Taipei city, which runs until October 31. Jade from Taiwan was quite far-flung in prehistoric times, reaching across waters in the Philippines and Vietnam as far back as 5,000 years ago.
Prehistoric jade exhibition opens in Taipei [Link no longer active]
Taiwan Today, 03 July 2015
A prehistoric jade exhibition kicked off July 1 at Taiwan Power Co.’s main hall in Taipei City, highlighting the rich cultural diversity of Taiwan.
Jointly organized by Taitung County-based National Museum of Prehistory and Taipower, “Lightening National Treausres—Prehistoric Taiwan Jade” comprises 55 replicas, including five of priceless NMP-permanent collection items. The bracelet, two brooches, earrings and necklace are confirmed Neolithic Peinan cultural relics and listed as national treasures since 2012 by the Ministry of Culture.
NMP curator Chang Shan-nan said it is not every day that items representing Taiwan’s prehistoric heritage go on display. “I strongly recommend the public takes advantage of this special opportunity to learn more about a lesser-known aspect of Taiwan’s past.”
In communities of the indigenous Amis tribe across Taiwan, locals say lima for five, pito for seven and mata for eye, just like Filipinos. In southern Taiwan’s Alishan mountain, the Tsou tribe calls the community’s meeting hut a kuba, strikingly similar in design to the Philippines’ kubo.
Whether in language, architecture or way of life, links among indigenous peoples of the Philippines and Taiwan are undeniable, with both sides tracing their ancestry to the Austronesian migrations across the Pacific Islands thousands of years ago.
The ties are ever apparent as Taiwan’s indigenous groups continued to reemerge, a revival seen over the last three decades. Once neglected and kept to themselves, Taiwan’s tribal peoples have now become rock stars.
Today, Taiwan’s 540,000 indigenous peoples—a two percent segment of the total 23 million—are prominent in Taiwanese daily life, from billboards and stage shows to their own television stations, newspapers and even rap albums.
With this rise came the urge to reach out to their Austronesian brothers and sisters, eager to have not just their history and ancestry as a common ground, but also a shared future.
Taiwan officials and scholars believe prehistoric ties between Philippine and Taiwanese indigenous groups provide a window where the two sides may pursue stronger relations, despite occasional irritants.
Neolithic artefacts discovered during the construction of a highway in Taiwan have been revealed, after an excavation programme that started last year. The stone tools and pottery fragments are thought to be around 3,000 years old.
Prehistoric relics make public debut in Miaoli [Link no longer active]
Taiwan Today, 05 March 2015
An assortment of relics recovered from an expressway construction site in northern Taiwan’s Miaoli County were publicly unveiled March 4, shedding new light on Neolithic life on the island.
Comprising everyday items, as well as pottery fragments and stone axes, the 3,000-year-old artifacts were unearthed during a Directorate-General of Highways-commissioned dig starting last October.
According to Archaeo Cultures Co. Ltd., the firm responsible for carrying out the project, the 24,000-square-meter-plus Dianziwo site was discovered in 1993 by a Miaoli local.
A fossil jawbone recovered from the seabed near Taiwan represents the first ancient hominid find from the region; dating is imprecise – anywhere from 10 to 190ka – but the form is more reminiscent of archaic hominids rather than recent ones. If so, it lends weight to the theory that there were multiple groups of ancient hominids that existed outside of Africa.
Recent studies of an increasing number of hominin fossils highlight regional and chronological diversities of archaic Homo in the Pleistocene of eastern Asia. However, such a realization is still based on limited geographical occurrences mainly from Indonesia, China and Russian Altai. Here we describe a newly discovered archaic Homo mandible from Taiwan (Penghu 1), which further increases the diversity of Pleistocene Asian hominins. Penghu 1 revealed an unexpectedly late survival (younger than 450 but most likely 190–10 thousand years ago) of robust, apparently primitive dentognathic morphology in the periphery of the continent, which is unknown among the penecontemporaneous fossil records from other regions of Asia except for the mid-Middle Pleistocene Homo from Hexian, Eastern China. Such patterns of geographic trait distribution cannot be simply explained by clinal geographic variation of Homo erectus between northern China and Java, and suggests survival of multiple evolutionary lineages among archaic hominins before the arrival of modern humans in the region.