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Iron-Age Settlement and Cultural Dynamic in Northeast and North Taiwan : A Technological Approach to Ceramic Assemblages at the Chiwulan Site (Ilan, Northeast Taiwan, 650-1850A.D.)





Situated at the junction of historic times, Taiwan’s Iron Age is considered the key to understanding the origin and history of the island’s aboriginal peoples. With this perspective, this thesis focuses on the Iron Age in Northeast and North Taiwan through a research into the affiliations among ceramic traditions from different periods and areas. To investigate the ceramic traditions of northeastern Taiwan, we used artifacts unearthed at the Chiwulan site in the Ilan Plain. This site, excavated during 2001-2003, includes two culture layers: the bottom layer dated from 650 to 1150 A.D. and the top layer from 1350 to 1850 A.D. Study of the ceramic assemblages was guided by the principles of the technological approach. In accordance with the concept of « chaîne opératoire », artifacts were identified and classified sequentially according to their technical, petrographic, and morpho-stylistique characteristics. Our results show that there is a remarkable affinity between early and late Iron-Age ceramics, implying a continued occupation by the same culture group. We then compared the Chiwulan data with regional data (from other sites in the Ilan Plain) and macroregional ones (from sites in North Coast and the Taipei Basin). What we found seems to support the idea that, in the early Iron Age, culture groups in the North and Northeast shared a common origin. Early settlers in the North seem to have advanced into the Northeast. Then in the late Iron Age, a reverse movement could have occurred with settlers from the Ilan Plain expanding upwards to the North. There also existed in the late Iron Age a similarity in the material culture of the northern and northeastern aborigines, whose recent descendants, though ethnically and linguistically diverse and distinct from each other, again demonstrated such an affinity in their material culture, suggesting filiation and continuation of Iron-Age culture. There was also a phenomenon of ethnogenesis. The evolution of new ethnic groups later on might have been related to the introduction of metallurgy.

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