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Museum of History introduces Father Raphael Maglioni's collection of archaeological finds

     The Hong Kong Museum of History will hold an exhibition entitled "Pioneer Archaeologist in South China: Father Maglioni's Collection of Archaeological Finds", from tomorrow (November 4) to February 1, 2010. Through display boards and about 25 artefacts from Father Maglioni's collection of archaeological finds, the exhibition aims to enhance visitors' awareness and understanding of early archaeological work in eastern Guangdong province and Hong Kong.

     The exhibition is presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, co-organised by the Hong Kong Museum of History, the Centre for Chinese Archaeology and Art, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Guangdong Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology in association with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions.

     Father Raphael Maglioni (1891-1953) was a gifted archaeologist and linguist. He left his native Italy in the late 1920s to carry out missionary work in Hong Kong and then in the Haifeng district of Guangdong province, where he worked for the next two decades. During that time, he assisted one of the pioneer archaeologists in South China, Father Daniel Finn, in his surveys in Haifeng district and it raised his interest in archaeology. His archaeological surveys in eastern Guangdong and Fujian provinces unearthed a large quantity of artefacts that shed light on the prehistory of South China.

     Although Father Maglioni never had any formal training in archaeology, his work proved to be a ground-breaking endeavour that yielded significant material for the study of the cultural development of South China. His work also reflected the emphasis archaeologists of his time placed on topics such as the classification of objects, typology and different kinds of sites. Most of the artefacts of the Maglioni collection came from the Mainland, while some were collected in Hong Kong.

     Born near Florence, Italy, Father Maglioni was ordained as a priest in his home city in 1915 and went on to serve as a chaplain in the Italian Army during World War I. He joined the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions in Milan in 1927, and in the following year he was sent to Hong Kong, where he was subsequently assigned to the district of Haifeng in Guangdong province.

     Missionary work that Father Maglioni engaged in allowed him to gain the geographical and ethnographical knowledge of Haifeng which became useful during his later archaeological fieldwork. It was the discovery of prehistoric artefacts at Pushangdun, Shanwei, in Haifeng district in 1934 that kindled Father Maglioni's interest in this field of study. He joined Father Daniel Finn in his surveys of that area, where they discovered a number of prehistoric sites. After Father Finn's death in 1936, Father Maglioni continued to conduct archaeological fieldwork, collecting a large number of remarkable prehistoric artefacts. His participation in the Third Congress of Prehistorians of the Far East in Singapore and the publication in the same year of his paper "Archaeological Finds in Hoifung" in the journal Hong Kong Naturalist marked major milestones in his archaeological fieldwork in both Guangdong and Fujian provinces that produced substantial findings.

     Father Maglioni was transferred back to Hong Kong in 1946, and he relocated his archaeological finds from the Mainland to the territory. With data compiled from the archaeological finds of the Haifeng district, he began his magnum opus The Prehistory of South China. Following Father Maglioni's death on May 27, 1953, the Catholic Church generously donated his vast collection of archaeological objects as well as valuable books to the Hong Kong Government in 1955.

     The Museum of History is located at 100 Chatham Road South, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. It opens from 10am to 6pm from Monday to Saturday and from 10am to 7pm on Sundays and public holidays. It is closed on Tuesdays (except public holidays). Admission for "Pioneer Archaeologist in South China: Father Maglioni's Collection of Archaeological Finds" is free.

     For details of the exhibition, please visit the Museum of History's websites or, or call 2724 9042.

Ends/Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Father Raphael Maglioni (1891-1953)


Father Maglioni often rode to archaeological sites on his bicycle, taken in 1930s-1940s.


A pottery "zun" with long neck and wide rim from late Shang to early Western Zhou period. The piece of pottery was unearthed from Jiaoling county, Guangdong province.




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