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Search for Spanish fort in Taiwan yields several finds

Multiple artefacts from different historical periods, including a Qing Dynasty blue and white porcelain medicine bottle, have been unearthed in Keelung during an excavation to find a city built by the Spaniards nearly 400 years ago.

Search for Spanish fort in Taiwan yields several finds
A member of a team of Taiwanese and Spanish archaeologists on Friday holds up a glazed ceramic
medicine bottle from the Qing Dynasty that the team found on Keelung’s Heping Island
[Credit: Lin Hsin-han, Taipei Times]
The discovery was part of a joint project between Taiwanese and Spanish research teams which kicked off in early May at Heping Island in the northeastern Taiwanese city of Keelung. It is aimed at locating a city named San Salvador constructed during Spain's brief occupation of northern Taiwan from 1626-1642.

The artefacts uncovered on Friday included bone and shell tools dating back to the Neolithic period. Researchers also found cord-impressed ceramic tiles from the Iron Age, similar to those excavated at the Shihsanhang archaeological site located at the estuary of Tamsui River in northern Taiwan, according to Keelung's Cultural Affairs Bureau.

Tsang Cheng-hwa, a distinguished professor at Tsing Hua University's Institute of Anthropology and the head of the project, said a tiny blue and white china medicine container from the Qing Dynasty, is especially exquisite among the artefacts unearthed.

The archaeological excavation is carried out on the property of the North Coast and Guanyinshan National Scenic Area, on which two parking lots were originally scheduled to be built.

Search for Spanish fort in Taiwan yields several finds
One of the burials discovered at the site [Credit: Keelung City government/Taipei Times]
Arriving at the archaeological site on Friday evening, Keelung Mayor Lin Yu-chang said the site will be preserved for research and the planned construction of two public parking lots will be immediately halted as stipulated in Taiwan's Cultural Heritage Preservation Act.

"This is really an exciting moment in Keelung's history," Lin said.

The current project is the second of its kind in Heping Island. The first excavation, also led by Tsang between 2011-2016, found the foundations of a Spanish chapel that was once part of the San Salvador fort.

That excavation at a parking lot belonging to Taiwan's China Shipbuilding Corp. also unearthed skeletal remains of four people, three complete skeletons and another which was only a skull. These remains were judged to be contemporaneous with the fort complex and proved to be European based on genetic testing. The project ended in 2016.

However, the shipbuilding company has denied researchers permission to enter its dock area, where some remains of a 100-by-100 meter main fortress are believed to be located. Without access to the area, excavations cannot be conducted.

In 1626, the Spanish Empire dispatched a fleet of warships from Manila to the northern tip of Taiwan and established a small colony called Spanish Formosa.

The San Salvador fort was built there to counterbalance Dutch power in southern Taiwan and to safeguard Spanish interests in the shipping route between China's Fujian province and Manila in the Philippines.

However, Spain's rule in Taiwan ended in 1642 after years of battling and the fort was ceded to the Dutch.

Authors: Worthy Shen & Chi Jo-yao | Source: Focus Taiwan [May 11, 2019]


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