Artifacts locked in time spawns 'museum in action'


Artifacts locked in time spawns 'museum in action'

文章3uphoria » 2006-09-01, 14:38

Publication Date:09/01/2006
Section:Arts and Culture

Artifacts locked in time spawns 'museum in action'
By Alexander Chou

For archaeologists, discovery of the Peinan site in southeastern Taiwan has proved invaluable in terms of information about the unwritten past of Taiwan's early inhabitants. For the National Museum of Prehistory, exhibiting the excavated treasures not only offers an opportunity to educate visitors about Taiwan's prehistoric past but also provides a link to the island's present, and thus helps to tell the full story of Taiwan's indigenous culture.

This also explains the museum's future direction: located in Taitung City, a major aboriginal conurbation, it hopes to become a window of the Austronesian-speaking cultures that cover a large part of the earth's surface from Madagascar off the coast of Africa to Easter Island in the eastern Pacific, and from New Zealand in the south to Hawaii and Taiwan in the north.

If it were not the unearthing of the buried prehistoric site, Peinan would probably be known to most young people only as the birthplace of Taiwanese pop diva Chang Hwei-mei--a.k.a. A-mei--and to most other Taiwanese as the name of a local township and of one of the island's 12 officially recognized Austronesian ethnic groups, known in Mandarin as Beinan and in English as Pinuyumayan or Puyuma. With a population of around 10,000, the Pinuyumayan is one of Taiwan's smaller aboriginal groups.

The first excavation of the site started in 1944/45 by archaeologists Takeo Kanaseki and Naoichi Kokubu at the tail-end years of the period of Japanese rule. Even though the dig was very small in scale, the pair quickly recognized the site's importance. Nevertheless, excavation halted following Japan's withdrawal from Taiwan, and did not resume under the island's new rulers, the Kuomintang-led ROC.

Thirty-five years passed until in July 1980, during construction of the Peinan East Line Railway Station and switchyard--now the South Line Railway Station--prehistoric remains of great interest were revealed. Numerous slate coffins containing exquisite artifacts that had been interred with the dead were excavated, attracting great public and media interest and, unfortunately, illegal digging and looting.

National Taiwan University archaeologist Professor Sung Wen-hsun was delegated to recruit students and form the Peinan Culture Archaeology Team, which was responsible for carrying out further excavations and preservation of artifacts. The group spent 10 years excavating an area of more than 10,000 square meters. Here they found 1,500 slate coffins and numerous other artifacts, which indicated that this Neolithic culture lived in settled communities. Following suggestions from Sung and others, in 1990 the Ministry of Education finally decided to organize a preparatory committee to draw up plans to construct the National Museum of Prehistory.

After another decade of careful planning and a total investment of around US$100 million, the museum finally opened its doors in August 2002. Excavation was not halted on the 18-hectare Peinan site, however, and new material artifacts and academic discoveries have continued to emerge from time to time. These findings have stimulated further debate and provided important evidence as to how this Stone Age culture, dating from around 3000-500 BC, was formed.

Archaeologists' most striking discovery was that the slate coffins were all arranged with their heads pointing toward the northeast and feet to the southwest. This immediately fascinated academics around the world, and groups with different points of view and agendas engaged in intellectual struggle over the ancient burial ground. Some archaeologists, for example, have suggested the coffins were set out to point to the top of Dulan Mountain, a local peak that faces out over the Pacific Ocean, because, they maintain, this is where the newly dead are greeted by their ancestral spirits.

The issue remains unresolved, however, and it is not the only one. A three-meter-high stone slab with a large hole chipped out of the center near the top, known locally as the moon-shaped slab, is exhibited at the nearby Peinan Cultural Park standing upright in the ground. Since the Peinan region does not contain this kind of rock, much interest centers on where it came from, how it was transported, and why.

It is hard to imagine Taiwan at a time when elephants could be heard in the forests and horses ran wild on the prairie, but these, and other mammals that were part of Taiwan's ancient fauna are represented by clay models in NMP's displays. At the other end of the scale is the dark-green 4-story-high statue erected in the museum's atrium. Combined with the hundreds of locally mined serpentine tiles covering the four walls and the blocks of wood for use as chairs, it gives the atrium a stunning appearance.

The standing exhibition combines education with entertainment, and includes items of interest to domestic and overseas visitors alike. Almost all information is presented in English as well as Chinese. Everyone can learn something: until recently most Taiwanese knew next to nothing about previous inhabitants of their island, or even about the indigenous peoples living next to them. Even worse, much of the information they thought they knew was, in fact, prejudicial.

"Even guided tours in English can be arranged for foreign visitors," proudly claimed Pasuya Poiconu, the museum's director and former vice minister of the Council of the Indigenous People. In 2005, the NMP became the first museum in Taiwan to pass the ISO-9001 standard for quality of service. Pasuya believes that "internationalization is a prerequisite, if the museum wishes to play an active role in promoting the Austronesian culture in Taitung."

The 2006 Austronesian Festival held July 15-30 was one of the many ideas brought to fruition jointly by the NMP and the Taitung County Government to boost the local tourism industry. "Just merely displaying artifacts will no longer meet visitors' ever growing demands," said Pasuya, a Tsou aborigine from the Tufuja tribe at Alishan, Chiayi County, when discussing his plans to turn the NMP from a location of passive exhibitions into a "museum in action."

Austronesian performers from five countries--Palau, Malaysia, the Philippines, New Zealand and Fiji--participated in the festival, as did more than 40 groups from Taiwan. The festival also included a dyeing and weaving exhibition, which introduced dresses and costumes from the Bishop Museum in Hawaii. The "action" theme was provided by an Austronesian fashion show and an Austronesian song composition contest.

Pasuya's current tasks include setting up glass display cases of the Peinan site's artifacts for exhibition at Taitung's Fong Nien Airport, convincing the local bus company to establish a new route that leads to the museum, working on the NMP's next exhibition which will introduce Austronesian artifacts from New Zealand, initiating educational programs such as the Young Archaeologists Summer Camps and, most of all, attending a series of celebrations for the museum's 4th anniversary.

All of which began with the accidental discovery of a cultural site dating back around 5000 years, and which should keep Pasuya, his staff, and their countless visitors busy for at least another 5000 years. ... Item=23085
文章: 27
註冊時間: 2006-01-09, 13:50

回到 妹友互動區


正在瀏覽這個版面的使用者:沒有註冊會員 和 1 位訪客