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Sha Ha archaeological findings on display

Major archaeological finds along with more than 100 artifacts unearthed from the Sha Ha excavation will be featured at the newly opened Hong Kong Heritage Discovery Centre from tomorrow (October 29) to April 30, 2006.

"The Ancient Culture of Hong Kong: Archaeological Discoveries in Sha Ha, Sai Kung", which reveals the prehistoric life of our ancestors and early history of Hong Kong, is the inaugural exhibition of the Heritage Discovery Centre.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the exhibition today (October 28), the Director of Leisure and Cultural Services, Ms Anissa Wong Sean-yee, said the centre was a newly established cultural facility with a mission to promote heritage conservation to the public through exhibitions and education activities.

"Construction of the centre is now completed, with such facilities as the Thematic Exhibition Gallery, the Lecture Theatre and the Reference Library open for public use. Design and installation for the Permanent Exhibition Gallery will take some time, however, and the whole centre is expected to be fully open by mid-2007."

Ms Wong also said the rescue archaeological excavation in Sha Ha, Sai Kung was the largest ever conducted in Hong Kong, and was one of the most important archaeological discoveries in Hong Kong for many years.

In 1996, a member of the Hong Kong Archaeological Society discovered some artifacts near the parking area of the resort hotel. Investigations by the Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO) confirmed that the site had significant archaeological potential. Since the site was in the vicinity of Sha Ha Village, it was named the Sha Ha archaeological site. During the Second Territory-Wide Survey in 1998, the AMO commissioned the Hunan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology to conduct a comprehensive survey at the site. The archaeological work revealed an area located on the alluvial plain of the estuary and the raised sandbar along the original coastline which contained rich cultural deposits covering more than 20,000 square metres.

To keep pace with the socio-economic development of the Sai Kung District, a new road provision was planned to improve the traffic network of Sai Kung Town, including an artery to Tai Mong Tsai Road via the Sha Ha archaeological site. Before road construction began, a large-scale rescue excavation was carried out to conserve the underground cultural remains.

The AMO organised the excavation in conjunction with the Shaanxi Archaeology Institute, Hebei Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics, Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology and the Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology of Guangzhou.

The excavation, covering more than 3,000 square metres, started in October, 2001, and was completed in September, 2002. Major finds were rich prehistoric cultural remains dating from about 2,000 to 5,000 year ago. Prehistoric features discovered on the site include postholes, burials, pits and the stone-tool workshop of the Neolithic period and Bronze Age, demonstrating the socio-economic activities of the coastal settlement.

The excavation also unearthed abundant artifacts such as a considerable amount of prehistoric pottery and stone implements, a few bronze implements and the ceramics of the Han (206BC-AD220), Song (960-1279) and Ming (1368-1644) dynasties.

The Department of Anthropology of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the Institute of Geology and Geophysics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences were also invited to carry out the research project, including topics on landscape, floatation, pollen and phytolith analyses, and the sources of stone materials, to decipher the prehistoric environmental changes and the way of living of the early inhabitants from different perspectives.

The preservation conditions at Sha Ha are not favorable to retain buried organic materials such as wooden tools, fauna or human skeletons. Nonetheless, this large-scale excavation revealed the different features and activity areas within the coastal settlement, vividly illustrating the livelihood of the prehistoric community in Hong Kong.

The artifact assemblages retrieved from the well-stratified sequence together with several groups of grave goods provide a valuable basis upon which the cultural chronology of Hong Kong and the Pearl River Estuary region can be reconstructed.

In the past, researchers generally believed that the prehistoric communities of the Pearl River Delta were simply hunting, fishing and gathering societies or even affluent foragers, and that the islands at the estuary were just temporary or seasonal places for people who lived in the delta. Evidence of phytoliths of cultivated plants and carbonised rice grains discovered in Sha Ha opens the door to further discussion on the diversity of prehistoric subsistence strategies.

The findings of the Sha Ha excavation and research projects will initiate investigations on the variability of the hunter-gatherer society and the relationship between prehistoric agricultural societies in the Yellow and the Yangzi valleys and those in peripheral regions in China.

In support of the exhibition, a series of lectures will be held from November to next February.

In addition, a fully illustrated catalogue is now available at the centre's Reference Library.

Located at Kowloon Park, Haiphong Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, the Heritage Discovery Centre opens from 10am to 6pm from Monday to Saturday, and from 10am to 7pm on Sundays and public holidays. On Christmas Eve and Chinese New Year’s Eve, the centre will close at 5pm. It is closed on Thursdays (except public holidays) and the first two days of the Chinese New Year. Admission is free.

For enquiries, call 2208 4400. For details of the exhibition and other activities, visit AMO’s website at .

Ends/Friday, October 28, 2005
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