Piecing Together Sha Po

Archaeological Investigations and Landscape Reconstruction


Mick Atha and Kennis Yip

ISBN : 978-988-8208-98-2


October 2016

280 pages, 7″ x 10″, 81 color plates and 70 illus.; 14 maps

  • HK$450.00

Hong Kong boasts a number of rich archaeological sites behind sandy bays. Among these backbeaches is Sha Po on Lamma Island, a site which has long captured the attention of archaeologists. However, until now no comprehensive study of the area has ever been published.

Piecing Together Sha Po presents the first sustained analysis, framed in terms of a multi-period social landscape, of the varieties of human activity in Sha Po spanning more than 6,000 years. Synthesising decades of earlier fieldwork together with Atha and Yip’s own extensive excavations conducted in 2008–2010, the discoveries collectively enabled the authors to reconstruct the society in Sha Po in different historical periods.

The artefacts unearthed from the site—some of them unique to the region—reveal a vibrant past which saw the inhabitants of Sha Po interacting with the environment in diverse ways. Evidence showing the mastery of quartz ornament manufacture and metallurgy in the Bronze Age suggests increasing craft specialisation and the rise of a more complex, competitive society. Later on, during the Six Dynasties–Tang period, Sha Po turned into a centre in the region’s imperially controlled kiln-based salt industry. Closer to our time, in the nineteenth century the farming and fishing communities in Sha Po became important suppliers of food and fuel to urban Hong Kong. Ultimately, this ground-breaking work tells a compelling story about human beings’ ceaseless reinvention of their lives through the lens of one special archaeological site.

Mick Atha teaches archaeology and landscape studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kennis Yip is an archaeological consultant. They are married with a daughter and live near Sha Po on Lamma Island.

‘A singular effort in the field of Hong Kong archaeology, Piecing Together Sha Po adopts a social landscape approach to chart the development of a single site over millennia of occupation, revealing as it does the untapped potential which careful field investigations hold for generating a better understanding of the region’s rich past.’ —Francis Allard, Department of Anthropology, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

‘This volume is the best overview of the early history of Hong Kong that I know. The authors have articulated patterns of human settlement at Sha Po in a masterly way that informs us not only of Lamma Island, or greater Hong Kong, but of Lingnan as a whole. I welcome it as the key source for specialists and the interested public alike.’ —Charles Higham, Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Otago, New Zealand

‘It is rare indeed for a multi-period study of a region to not only synthesise a vast range of archaeological material but also include incisive points of theory alongside that narrative, such as the need to understand evidence at a landscape level and questioning the utility of “Neolithic” and “Bronze Age” categories. This is such a book.’ —Steve Roskams, Department of Archaeology, University of York