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Piecing Together Sha PoArchaeological Investigations and Landscape Reconstruction$

Mick Atha and Kennis Yip

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9789888208982

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888208982.001.0001

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Reconstructing Sha Po’s Landscapes and Lifeways

Reconstructing Sha Po’s Landscapes and Lifeways

Chapter:
(p.161) 8 Reconstructing Sha Po’s Landscapes and Lifeways
Source:
Piecing Together Sha Po
Author(s):

Mick Atha

Kennis Yip

Publisher:
Hong Kong University Press
DOI:10.5790/hongkong/9789888208982.003.0008

Abstract and Keywords

In Chapter 8 all the strands of evidence are drawn together within an overarching synthetic analysis of patterns of human activity through time, which are then interpreted in terms of the development, use, and past experience of Sha Po’s multi-period cultural landscape. The shifting patterns of human activity during the 6,500-year span of the study also permit the changing backbeach landform to be modelled as it expanded westward through time. Social landscape reconstructions, aided by artist’s impression drawings, focus in particular on activities evidenced during the Bronze Age, Six-Dynasties-Tang period, and Qing to early twentieth century.

Keywords:   Social landscape reconstruction, Ancient environment, Artist’s reconstruction drawings, Neolithic, Bronze Age, Six Dynasties-Tang, Qing dynasty

Introduction

We began in Part I by introducing our Sha Po study area in terms of its archaeological highlights and their contribution to the site’s local and regional significance. We outlined the history of archaeological discovery and then introduced the idea that a multi-period social landscape could be reconstructed from the myriad of material traces left by Sha Po’s succession of human communities. Our chronological discussion of Sha Po’s human story then unfolded in Part II’s four chapters, which examined the changing nature of archaeological remains through time as a means of illuminating many aspects of the ancient lifeways of past communities and their changing interactions with the local environment. The specific socio-historical conditions governing such interactions through time resulted in archaeological ‘signatures’ that reflect not only socio-political organisation and economic activity, but in some cases also ideological-religious beliefs as well.

Our task here in Part III is to attempt to create a more holistic, overall understanding of those past lifeways by reconstructing a succession of social landscapes shaped, inhabited, and experienced by ancient communities at Sha Po. Such reconstructions, it must be acknowledged, reflect periods of human activity of unknown continuity and perhaps spanning several centuries; however, that is the nature of the evidence, in particular in prehistory. Despite those limitations, there are nonetheless clear patterns within the data in some periods, and undeniable contrasts between periods as well. First, though, we can use the shifting patterns of archaeological evidence to help reconstruct how the ancient physical environment changed as a result of the interplay of natural processes and cultural agency.

Reconstructing Sha Po’s Ancient Landforms

Introduction

While the character and patterning of archaeological remains in different periods at Sha Po revealed many specific details of activities and social organisation through time, those same data can also reveal how landforms, land use, and, by association, vegetation cover, were also changing through time. Map 10, which uses the 1981 1:1000 map as its basis, shows a reconstruction of the changing coastal landforms of the Sha Po study area in the Late Neolithic–Bronze Age, Six Dynasties–Yuan, and late Qing periods.

The shifting shape of the backbeach landscape

Based on the patterning of Neolithic remains, the first people to make use of the Yung Shue Wan area encountered a bay that looked quite different from its modern form. The shoreline was perhaps as much

(p.162)

Reconstructing Sha Po’s Landscapes and Lifeways

Map 10: Composite map showing changing coastal landform through time.

Source: CLSO. Yung Shue Wan, Lamma Island. 1:1000 Scale Topographic Map Sheets 14-NE-10D and 14-NE-15B. Hong Kong: CLSO, 1981a and 1981b respectively. Reproduced with permission of the Director of Lands. © The Government of the Hong Kong SAR. Licence No. 59/2015.

(p.163) as 75 m further east than its modern position, whereas the western face of the Sha Po plateau—before it was cut back in modern times—extended somewhat further to the west. As a result the plateau, in particular in prehistory, was a far more prominent feature in the coastal landscape, thereby creating a deeper, more enclosed sandy bay to the south and a smaller beach to the north. However, our understanding of the ancient landform at the mouth of the Yung Shue Long valley is much poorer than that to the south due to a lack of archaeological work, although it seems unlikely that a backbeach ever existed there. Given the dearth of reliable data, it seemed sensible to not attempt a reconstruction of the pre-Qing coastline in that area.

The plateau has no evidence for human activity before the Bronze Age and, like most of inland Hong Kong in the Neolithic, was probably covered with broad-leaved, evergreen forest. The Neolithic backbeach was a curving feature probably no more than 20–30 m wide east–west, with a shallow freshwater lagoon behind, which drained into the sea through the southern end of the sand barrier. Before Qing–modern drainage, the very low-lying area (2.4 mPD) between the Tin Hau Temple’s sand spit and the southern backbeach would have flooded during spring tides, but our understanding of the dynamic environment in that area is at present poor. As can be observed in Hong Kong today, dramatic summer monsoonal rainstorms can carve deep floodwater channels through (back)beach formations, only to be backfilled with interest by typhoon-related gales and waves. In the case of severe rainstorms and major typhoons, these transformations can occur over the space of a few hours and the effects can be very dramatic indeed. Those same cyclical processes were undoubtedly at work throughout Sha Po’s human occupation, and for periods following powerful typhoons the backbeach would have completely ‘dammed-off’ the valley—raising the lagoon’s water level—until floodwaters during the next major rainstorm washed through the backbeach and remodelled its outline.

Based on the recorded position of its sloping seaward face observed in excavations at its southern end, there was perhaps a slight westward expansion of the backbeach between the Later Neolithic and end of the Bronze Age. But the greatest change in the Bronze Age landscape involved the clearance of forest from at least the south facing flank—perhaps the entire upper surface—of the New Village plateau to create a new area for settlement and craft-working.

The mapped extent of tell-tale industrial residues indicates that by the Six Dynasties–Tang period the backbeach had expanded westward to almost double its Bronze Age extent, which was also reflected in the patterning of Northern Song to Southern Song–Yuan material across more or less the same area. Interestingly, excavations on the plateau also recorded the presence of thin scatters of Tang–Song pottery, which one can interpret as an indication that the area was then open—probably as a result of industrial fuel gathering—and perhaps in use for some form of cultivation. Whether the plateau remained continuously in use from later prehistory through to the Song dynasty is, however, impossible to say.

Not much is known about the Ming dynasty landscape, although the bay was no doubt still being occasionally visited by naval and merchant vessels, while a more regular presence of boat-dwelling fishing families might be anticipated. However, the fact that Lamma Island was in the Ming government’s eyes considered wasteland available for imperial grant to absentee landlords suggests that inland areas were then largely uninhabited. Returning to the geomorphology, by the end of the Ming, the backbeach seems to have expanded to the line of Yung Shue Wan Back Street while, by the later Qing, a footpath pre-dating Main Street overlooked the shore, but from a position safely beyond the reach of the highest spring tides. Given the survival of much of the Qing landscape into the modern era, its features and overall form are reserved for discussion of the later historical social landscape in the final section of this chapter.

(p.164) Reconstructing the changing backbeach profile

The Sha Po backbeach’s rather piecemeal, discontinuous pattern of archaeological investigation—mostly in areas previously subjected to modern disturbance—makes the task of reconstructing the succession of pre-modern buried landforms extremely challenging. We nevertheless felt that an attempt should be made to reconstruct—by ‘patching together’ the fragments of stratigraphy available—the backbeach profile from the Middle Neolithic to modern era, and the result is shown in Figure 32. The profile shows a north-west–south-east transverse section across the south-central backbeach (location indicated on central panel of Map 10), which stretches from the edge of the former lagoon in the south-east, across the top of the backbeach, and then down the seaward face to the approximate western edge of the Six Dynasties–Yuan backbeach to the north-west. Westward of that there has been too much modification since the late Qing to permit identification of that part of the profile.

We have shown above that the shape of the Sha Po landscape—with the backbeach and plateau at its heart—has changed significantly over the millennia of its human occupancy. Next, we focus on the changing character and patterning of human activity in order to reconstruct how natural processes and cultural agency interacted through time to create a succession of contrasting social landscapes at Sha Po.

Reconstructing Sha Po’s Landscapes and Lifeways

Figure 32: 60 m wide east–west transect across backbeach: showing changing profile through time, with four sections showing simplified sequence of archaeological deposits

(p.165) Interpreting the Shifting Patterns of Human Activity

Introduction

In our plots of different zones constituting the changing social landscape through time we have used different colours to highlight activity areas in each period, a series of standardised symbols for human burials, bronze casting, and kiln structures, while all broader areas are circled and labelled in accordance with the activity occurring, namely food preparation and consumption, rubbish disposal (middens), stone tool/weapon workshop, stone ornament workshop, housing structures, and intense spreads of kiln debris perhaps indicative of kilns.

A kin-based Middle–Late Neolithic social landscape?

The small, localised assemblage of Middle Neolithic pottery connected with cooking and eating, the use of general purpose stone tools and presence of adze rough-outs together suggest a quite generalised, probably domestic and subsistence related use of the central-eastern backbeach by one or more small, perhaps kin-based, groups of mobile fisher-hunter foragers, who probably made brief but repeated visits to the backbeach when in the area to exploit seasonally available resources, while primarily basing themselves in the next bay south at Tai Wan. The north-west Lamma community’s characteristic use of red painted pottery and other distinctive materials suggests that they were part of a wider cultural-ideological tradition evidenced by people throughout the Hong Kong–Pearl River Delta region and in adjacent areas of the mainland coast. However, it is difficult to say whether some or all of the groups sharing those material traditions did so because they also considered themselves part of some larger socio-political entity or ‘regional polity’. The general lack of obvious markers of social differentiation—for example, prestige goods, an interest in competitive display, and higher-status burials—actually suggests a generally egalitarian character to the region’s Middle Neolithic society. The geographical extent of the cultural tradition perhaps offers some clues regarding the importance of boat-based coastal mobility to the local way of life.

As Map 11 shows, the known patterning of Later Neolithic activity at Sha Po occupies a 20–30 m wide curving strip down the eastern, landward side of the backbeach. This pattern—and that of Middle Neolithic and Bronze Age remains—supports the idea that the earliest build-up of storm-blown sand occurred when the prehistoric shoreline was perhaps up to 75 m further east than its current position. The western limit of the prehistoric backbeach—in other words, the ancient shoreline—was further suggested by discoveries of water-rolled Neolithic sherds at 2.6 mPD in two small trenches in 1988.1

Domestic activity relating to food preparation and storage was evidenced by coarse cooking pots and utilitarian pebble tools across much of the Later Neolithic backbeach. Generally poor organic preservation meant that no true middens were recognisable, but pig (probably wild boar), large deer, and sea turtle were clearly hunted—as was also reflected in finds of two spearheads and an arrowhead dotted across the backbeach—while fish and some shellfish were also present. A particular focus of cooking activity was suggested by concentrations of pot-stand and fire-grate fragments in the centre-east of the domestic zone [22a]. Interestingly, that potential cooking zone also overlapped with the northern end of an area within which grey schist-slate was being worked to create a variety of tools and ornaments, as was indicated by rough-outs of knives and a large spade-like adze, an arm-ring, ring-core, and waste flakes, as well as a number of whetstones used in their shaping. Some quartz earring manufacture is also suggested on the backbeach, but again as one of a myriad of low-intensity craft activities carried out while at Sha Po, rather than the more specialised, larger-scale workshop activity of the Bronze Age discussed below. (p.166)

Reconstructing Sha Po’s Landscapes and Lifeways

Map 11: Middle to Late Neolithic social landscape.

Source: CLSO. Yung Shue Wan, Lamma Island. 1:1000 Scale Topographic Map Sheets 14-NE-10D and 14-NE-15B. Hong Kong: CLSO, 1981a and 1981b respectively. Reproduced with permission of the Director of Lands. © The Government of the Hong Kong SAR. Licence No. 59/2015.

The twelve complete adzes and associated whetstones found across the Later Neolithic backbeach show the potential importance of wood and bamboo for the procurement of raw materials and manufacture of all manner of items essential to survival, for example, boats and paddles, houses and shelters, spear and arrow shafts, and a myriad of other domestic artefacts in daily use. Adzes would also be essential for harvesting carbohydrate-rich starch from palms, which research at Xincun, Taishan suggests was important to Neolithic diet at the coast. By the Later Neolithic period, people at Sha Po were also using spindle whorls to spin plant fibres such as hemp to make yarn and cordage that might have been used in woven fabrics, fishing line and nets, boat anchor ropes, and carrying handles for pots.

The Later Neolithic community left us a mosaic of different subsistence-related and craft-working activities across the backbeach, which seems to reflect a genuinely undifferentiated, unspecialised social use of space. One could reasonably interpret that pattern in terms of activities occurring during many short-term visits by relatively small-scale communities of fisher-hunter-foragers, who made repeated use of the Sha Po backbeach as one of several regular stop-offs within their coastal ‘home range’. It is possible (p.167) also that the pattern actually reflects several distinct phases of use, each with their own activity foci, but the millennia of natural and cultural post-depositional processes have rendered them unintelligible to archaeologists.

A Bronze Age landscape of increasing social complexity

Social landscapes are places created by particular communities that can reflect many aspects of their daily life. This is particularly evident in Bronze Age Sha Po, where the community’s lifeway and associated use of the physical environment can be mapped in terms of a number of discrete zones relating to dwelling and stone ornament manufacture, food processing and consumption, rubbish disposal, stone tool-weapon polishing and maintenance, bronze casting, and mortuary activity.

While on the backbeach, the overall extent of human activity in this period broadly matches that of the Later Neolithic, the range and zonation of activities are rather different. There is also a suggestion of

Reconstructing Sha Po’s Landscapes and Lifeways

Map 12: Bronze Age social landscape.

Source: CLSO. Yung Shue Wan, Lamma Island. 1:1000 Scale Topographic Map Sheets 14-NE-10D and 14-NE-15B. Hong Kong: CLSO, 1981a and 1981b respectively. Reproduced with permission of the Director of Lands. © The Government of the Hong Kong SAR. Licence No. 59/2015.

(p.168) some westward expansion of the southern backbeach, presumably through natural, typhoon-related sand accumulation, into which cultural activities then expanded. The rich Bronze Age deposits at the south-western foot of the New Village plateau are identical in composition to those found on the plateau itself and were almost certainly redeposited downslope through natural erosion and Qing dynasty agriculture. In contrast, the Bronze Age clearance and use of the New Village plateau for the construction of a ‘settlement’, which was associated with the manufacture of finely polished earrings, tells us that the local community was part of a society undergoing significant socio-political change.

The three main excavated areas on the plateau present a consistent picture of a landscape cleared of trees around the middle of the second millennium BCE to permit the construction of a number of post-built, probably stilt-house type, shelters. A small oval structure was tentatively identified in one of two areas without intercutting or ‘double’ post-holes, which perhaps indicates a low intensity of reuse and rebuilding of individual structures, and therefore either a single phase of use, or a migration of the ‘settlement’ across the plateau through time. In contrast, the third clustering of post-holes, slightly higher up on the plateau, did include several overlapping, multiple examples that indicate refurbishment and/or rebuilding on the same spot. Either way, it is clear from the volumes of white and clear quartz raw materials, ring rough-outs, semi-finished and completed earrings, and associated saws and whetstones that the plateau was home to a group of skilled stone ornament manufacturers, whose products were perhaps consumed far beyond their local community. There is also widespread evidence on the plateau for domestic activity relating to the preparation and consumption of food and drink. Why that location was so favoured is open to question, but proximity to suitable raw materials may have been a significant factor. Narrow veins of white quartz are a widely occurring feature in granite on Lamma, so the Yung Shue Wan area was perhaps particularly noted as a raw material source.2

On the central and southern backbeach the pottery and stone artefact assemblages suggest a striking degree of continuity in the use of that zone for the preparation and consumption of food and the finishing, repairing, and resharpening of tools and weapons such as adzes, spearheads, and arrowheads. As in the Later Neolithic, the latter craft-working activities seem to have taken place at Sha Po as part of the daily routine of subsistence-related activities, rather than within a more segregated workshop environment. This makes sense in that general stone workshops—i.e., those focused on shaping all manner of utilitarian tools from raw materials—create a great deal of mess and waste material, whereas the finer work of finishing, sharpening, and polishing tools and weapons was undoubtedly one of a myriad of ‘maintenance’ tasks carried out within a group social context. The more obvious presence of consumption wares—mostly stem cups—on the plateau and backbeach may simply reflect the harder, more robust nature of higher-fired Bronze Age pottery, but could be an indication also of the longer-term occupation of Sha Po by rather larger groups during this period.

The above circumstantial evidence for food acquisition and consumption is more categorically evidenced by a localised midden spread on the southern backbeach containing shellfish and the bones of fish, dolphin, deer, crocodile, green turtle, and even porcupine. The archaeological remains tell us much about the social organisation of activities within the Sha Po sites, but the remains of food animals and the tools, weapons, and equipment used in their capture open up far bigger socio-economic landscapes. They remind us of the community’s rich and diverse environment teeming with resources from forests, coastlines, and the open sea.

Arguably, the most dramatic and archaeologically important feature of the Bronze Age backbeach is Hong Kong’s single convincing case of bronze casting as evidenced by splashes of casting slag associated with sandstone bivalve moulds and possible crucible fragments. The location of industrial activity near the southern tip of the backbeach, which would have kept the noxious fumes and fire risk well away from

(p.169)

Reconstructing Sha Po’s Landscapes and Lifeways

Figure 33: Artist’s impression of Bronze Age landscape (Dina. B. Knight)

(p.170) the only identifiable dwelling area on the plateau, is perhaps significant, although there is good evidence for domestic consumption and rubbish disposal nearby. The chronological resolution of our data is too coarse to identify subphases of activity within prehistoric periods—especially in the loose, sandy sediments of the backbeach—so it could be that the domestic and midden activity never occurred at precisely the same time and in the same place as the bronze casting. It is impossible to tell for sure.

A similar question mark hangs over the two potential burials and one more definite example noted on the central backbeach,3 all of which are in an area also rich in craft and domestic activities. One must question whether people would bury their dead in an area where they frequently gathered to cook and consume food and carry out daily maintenance activities. So while everything discussed is notionally Bronze Age in date, we would suggest that the burials are probably either later or earlier than the other activities identified nearby. Fundamentally, though, if all three are indeed burials, then they are located in the same quite compact area of the central backbeach, which in 1972 produced the complete double-F pot that first raised the possibility of Bronze Age burials in the area.

Finally, with regard to the canoes used by the mobile, seafaring-coastal population, in the end we decided to depict canoes as single dugouts without outriggers or sails, which is a format we would envisage in use for general coastal, island hopping, and estuarine-riverine travel. But double canoes, some probably with sails, may also have been used.

The earlier historical socio-economic landscape

The discovery of Six Dynasties–Tang kiln debris in every excavation so far completed on the Sha Po backbeach, added to our knowledge of more extensively excavated kiln sites, suggests that the clusters of particularly intense kiln debris spreads at Sha Po probably mark the approximate positions of perhaps as many as eight further kilns to go with the seven industrial structures so far identified. The known and probable locations of kiln structures are shown respectively by circles and darker green shading in Map 13, while further kilns possibly await discovery in the untested areas in between. If that is true, then it would mark out Sha Po as one of the more important industrial complexes then operating in Hong Kong. The discovery of locally unique artefacts associated with government officials and literacy supports the idea that the industrial activity at Sha Po—and by association across Hong Kong—was managed and policed as part of the Imperial Salt Monopoly, then thought to have been administered from Nantou.

With respect to non-industrial remains, the scatters of Six Dynasties–Tang domestic pottery—storage jars, bowls, and cups—are quite thin and mirror the patterns at most other contemporary industrial sites, with one notable exception.4 The Han–Six Dynasties midden remains on the southern backbeach appear to pre-date or perhaps overlap with the earliest periods of kiln use, so may at least in part reflect patterns of rubbish disposal by kiln workers.

As discussed in Chapter 6, besides the unique San Tau cemetery,5 Six Dynasties–Tang burials are generally rare in Hong Kong, so the two burials at Sha Po—Graves 2 and 3—are particularly notable in that they also contained preserved human remains, in both cases of adult females. They are most interesting, though, for their almost identical orientations, which can be interpreted as evidence for shared beliefs concerning the appropriate placement of the dead in the landscape, in other words, geomancy or fung shui as we now know it. Fascinatingly, that orientation appears to be mirrored by Bronze Age Grave 1, which could indicate long-term use of the Sha Po area by maritime groups with similar ideas regarding mortuary placement.

Although the scientific dating suggests that all but one of the kilns (K4) probably ceased operation by the end of the Tang dynasty, clear continuity of backbeach use is suggested by the patterning (p.171) of Song–Yuan storage and consumption wares in post-abandonment spreads. So was there also some continuity of industrial production beyond the Tang dynasty—as was hinted at by the TL dates from K4—but it was so small-scale as to be almost unidentifiable archaeologically? Interestingly, thin scatters of Tang–Song material on the plateau seem to indicate some use—perhaps cultivation—of that area during the operation and post-abandonment phase of the industrial complex.

The archaeological evidence creates a general impression of a busy industrial landscape with multiple—perhaps household—teams working away at their kilns, smoke and fumes filling the air, the latter being particularly the case when quicklime was being slaked to prepare or repair the large woven boiling ‘pans’. The pans themselves might have been made by specialists elsewhere or maybe were woven on site when required. The primary product’s raw material—concentrated brine—was probably at this time extracted using the leaching rather than solar evaporation method, but archaeological evidence for this crucial aspect of the process still eludes us.6 Fuel was also an essential resource and the black ashy layer found in the base of Kiln K4 hints at the use of brushwood and maybe grass from local hillsides. We can only

Reconstructing Sha Po’s Landscapes and Lifeways

Map 13: Six Dynasties–Tang social landscape.

Source: CLSO. Yung Shue Wan, Lamma Island. 1:1000 Scale Topographic Map Sheets 14-NE-10D and 14-NE-15B. Hong Kong: CLSO, 1981a and 1981b respectively. Reproduced with permission of the Director of Lands. © The Government of the Hong Kong SAR. Licence No. 59/2015.

(p.172)

Reconstructing Sha Po’s Landscapes and Lifeways

Figure 34: Artist's impression of Six Dynasties–Tang landscape (Dina. B. Knight)

(p.173)

speculate whether some form of scrub or woodland management was practised; but if not, the exhaustion of fuel supplies may have been a contributory factor leading to the industry’s eventual collapse.

Boats were obviously pivotal to the industry’s operation, but given the apparent persistence of non-Han Chinese culture at the coast—i.e., Yue or Yao people—and probable operation of the industry by the local population, it seems more likely that such vessels were something similar to a Philippines’ barangay, rather than an early form of Chinese sampan or junk.7 The boats would have been needed to bring in coral and shells to make lime and to carry away shipments of salt, and perhaps also lime. However, the guan brick, nature of the Sha Po kiln complex, archaeological suggestions of a potential naval military presence in the region,8 and other historical clues all suggest that more junk-like Chinese military vessels carrying imperial soldiers and administrators may also have patrolled the area. In our artist’s reconstruction drawing, we show only barangay-type vessels. Despite quite extensive excavation on some sites (e.g., Sham Wan Tsuen), no evidence for settlement associated with any Six Dynasties–Tang industrial site has ever been found, which therefore raises the possibility that the kilns were operated by a boat-based or even coastal stilt-house dwelling population.

The late Qing to mid-twentieth-century farming-fishing landscape

With the arrival of rice farmers in the earlier Qing dynasty, the physical environment began to undergo significant change. In particular in the valleys, villages were built and streams were diverted and sluiced for the management of wet rice agriculture, while all accessible slopes—including the Sha Po plateau—were eventually terraced to grow vegetables. Some consideration of the landscape setting, or fung shui, was probably necessary in the placement and orientation of the first villages, around which shrines, ancient ‘spirit’ trees and fung shui groves served to enhance the auspiciousness of the locale. Then around the beginning of the nineteenth century, Sha Po Old Village was itself built on the central backbeach as a single row of houses, beside which a second parallel block was later added. The nineteenth-century expansion of Yung Shue Wan’s coastal market reflects the economic impact of Hong Kong’s rapid development, which generated a vibrant trade through Yung Shue Wan to Aberdeen in livestock—cattle, pigs, and chickens—fish, vegetables, charcoal, and fuel-grass.9 Cattle raised in south Lamma were driven to Sha Po and penned there awaiting shipment, and such pens were recorded in the Block Crown Lease Survey map of 1905 (see Map 14 below). The 1905 map also shows that the former freshwater lagoon had by then been drained and was in use as paddy fields, indeed all available land was either under crop or otherwise put to economic use.

Although their respective economic interests were fundamentally land and maritime-focused, the social landscapes of farmers and Hoklo fisher-folk substantially overlapped as a result of their joint crewing of inshore fishing boats, their use of Yung Shue Wan’s market as an arena for intergroup economic exchange, and their shared religious focus on the Tin Hau temple. The temple also served an important geomantic role in the social landscapes of both communities, in that it overlooked and protected the moorings and breaming beaches used by the fishing community, and provided a spiritual defence against the negative fung shui of Sha Po Old Village’s rather exposed position.

Perhaps the most significant consequence of the traditional farming way of life was its underlying sustainability, which was grounded in the intergenerational stewardship of the socio-economic landscape. That involved the practical matters of ongoing maintenance of houses and other buildings, rice-drying grounds, field systems, and water-management features. But more importantly, it was mediated through the tight-knit social structures of rice-farming communities, which were bound together by a deep respect for natural and supernatural forces, and a reverence for the beliefs, wisdom, and achievements of (p.174)

Reconstructing Sha Po’s Landscapes and Lifeways

Map 14: Detail of 1905 map centred on Sha Po study area with cattle pens circled.

Source: CLSO. Lamma Island, D.D.3 Sheet 2. 1:1980 Scale Map. Hong Kong: CLSO. Reproduced with permission of the Director of Lands. © The Government of the Hong Kong SAR. Licence No. 59/2015.

village elders and ancestral figures. That is why, despite Hong Kong’s complete transformation in the same period, the essential features of the Qing and earlier twentieth-century social landscape recorded in the 1905 map survived largely intact until the late 1960s at Sha Po.10 Our artist’s impression of the late Qing landscape seems a very appropriate place to round off our discussion of the 6,500-year story of human-environment interaction at Sha Po.

In the last four decades the hinterlands of Yung Shue Wan have witnessed their most dramatic period of change, during which the backbeach, former paddy fields, and hillside terraces have all succumbed to modern development. Paradoxically, these most recent impacts of human agency—in effect, the

(p.175)

Reconstructing Sha Po’s Landscapes and Lifeways

Figure 35: Artist’s impression of late Qing to early twentieth-century landscape (Dina. B. Knight)

(p.176) formation processes of the modern social landscape—also caused the discovery of all its earlier manifestations discussed above.

In our final chapter we reflect on our research and draw some conclusions concerning our use of a social landscape approach, the local importance of Sha Po, and its wider significance within Hong Kong and Chinese archaeology.

Notes

(1.) Spry, ‘Sha Po Tsuen’, 12–13.

(2.) This comment is based on general field observations of quartz veins visible in local granite outcrops. But the small scale (1:25,000) used for most Hong Kong geological maps means that occurrences of quartz are usually too small to be mapped. Interestingly, the authors’ recent research on a small headland site at Pak Kok Tsui—the northern tip of Lamma Island and a half-hour walk from Sha Po—produced significant quantities of white quartz, which may have been quarried in the area.

(3.) As discussed in Chapter 5, the one convincing burial (Grave 1) seems to be firmly Bronze Age in date, which is also the case with the possible burial containing a hard pottery jar and stem cup, whereas the softer ceramics in the third perhaps suggest an Early Bronze Age date.

(4.) The pottery assemblage at Sham Wan Tsuen is exceptionally rich given the excavator’s suggested brief, but presumably very intense, period of Tang dynasty activity. Meacham, Chek Lap Kok Island, 197.

(5.) Atha, ‘San Tau, North Lantau’.

(6.) Hase, ‘Salt’, 66.

(7.) Thanks to Stephen Davies for advice on possible forms of prehistoric and early historical boats of the South China Coast.

(8.) Atha, ‘San Tau, North Lantau’, 215.

(9.) Hase, ‘Yung Shue Wan’, 30.

(10.) Compare the 1905 map shown in Maps 9 and 14 with the 1968 situation recorded in Map 6. That degree of continuity was also evidenced in many other areas of the New Territories over that same period.

Notes:

(2.) This comment is based on general field observations of quartz veins visible in local granite outcrops. But the small scale (1:25,000) used for most Hong Kong geological maps means that occurrences of quartz are usually too small to be mapped. Interestingly, the authors’ recent research on a small headland site at Pak Kok Tsui—the northern tip of Lamma Island and a half-hour walk from Sha Po—produced significant quantities of white quartz, which may have been quarried in the area.

(3.) As discussed in Chapter 5, the one convincing burial (Grave 1) seems to be firmly Bronze Age in date, which is also the case with the possible burial containing a hard pottery jar and stem cup, whereas the softer ceramics in the third perhaps suggest an Early Bronze Age date.

(4.) The pottery assemblage at Sham Wan Tsuen is exceptionally rich given the excavator’s suggested brief, but presumably very intense, period of Tang dynasty activity. Meacham, Chek Lap Kok Island, 197.

(7.) Thanks to Stephen Davies for advice on possible forms of prehistoric and early historical boats of the South China Coast.

(10.) Compare the 1905 map shown in Maps 9 and 14 with the 1968 situation recorded in Map 6. That degree of continuity was also evidenced in many other areas of the New Territories over that same period.