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Scaling Heights and Fathoming Depths

CUHK’s Department of Anthropology launched Hong Kong’s first minor programme in Archaeology in 2016. Since then, local students have been able to receive systematic academic and fieldwork training in archaeology. Those who returned from internships at the Sanxingdui site and the Jiangkou Battlefield in Sichuan as well as the Nanhai No.1 shipwreck site in Guangdong shared their scaling and fathoming experiences at an exhibition at the University Library.

Nine students from Anthropology, History and Cultural and Religious Studies interned in Sichuan in the past summer, engaging in archaeological work—operating the RTK (Real-time kinematic) technology, excavating tombs, refitting ceramic sherds, and transferring the artifacts’ pattern to paper. ‘It means a lot to me to be able to observe up close how our ancestors lived by taking into my hands artifacts from those times,’ said Year 4 anthropology student Chung Lai-kwan. Prof. Lam Weng-cheong who took charge of the Sichuan internship finds fieldwork studies instrumental to helping the interns understand the value of material cultural heritage and the reason to care about the relics.

Nanhai No.1 is a sunken ship from the Southern Song era. With its large amount of ceramics and gold, silver and bronze artefacts, it is the earliest and largest find of its kind. 2017 marked the 30th anniversary of the unearthing of Nanhai No.1. Anthropology graduate Sonia Fung and Year 3 student Deng Xiaoyi visited the archaeological site in Yangjiang, Guangdong to learn about the underwater cultural heritage. The sunken ship display in the museum allows visitors to observe the process from excavation to cleanup. Sonia thought it helps to bring archaeology to the wider public.

The display has reconstructed for the visitors the ancient Shu culture in Sichuan, the peasant unrest in late Ming and the prosperous Southern Song. But one doesn’t have to look far for archaeological sites. There are 208 sites of archaeological interest in Hong Kong. For instance, a team of diver-archaeologists recovered an anchor stock of Song off High Island in Sai Kung, proving Hong Kong an important entrepot on the Maritime Silk Route back then.

Prof. Sharon Wong, who’s in charge of the underwater archaeological stream, said, ‘Hongkongers are used to looking forward. But if we do not examine the past, as archaeology and conservation teach us to, how can we understand the present?’

J. Lau

This article was originally published in No. 529/530, Newsletter in Dec 2018.

Archaeology undergraduate programmes Lam Weng-cheong Sharon Wong Department of Anthropology Department of History Department of Cultural and Religious Studies