The Archaeology of Hong Kong


William Meacham

ISBN : 978-962-209-925-8


November 2008

220 pages, 7″ x 10″

  • HK$225.00

Also available in Hardback HK$395.00

Archaeological investigation began in Hong Kong in the 1920s and showed that the territory had a considerable prehistoric occupation, now known to extend back at least 7,000 years. Sites abound on outlying islands and along the coastline of the New Territories. More than two hundred sites of the Neolithic and Bronze Age have been recorded, and many have been systematically surveyed and excavated; quite a few have been published in detail. Scientific studies of excavated materials have thrown much light on prehistoric life in the area. A large brick chamber tomb of the Han period (206 BC–AD 220) discovered in 1955 marks the beginning of the historical era. Considerable new data has been obtained on the early historical period as well.

The last sixteen years in particular have witnessed a geometric expansion of archaeological data, as large-scale excavations lasting several months have become common and full-time professional contract archaeologists have established practice in the territory. This intensive pace of fieldwork and research has yielded a wealth of information on the material culture of the early inhabitants of the area. There is at present no synopsis of this mass of new data, and very little of it has been published. The aim of this book is simply to present a very general and concise review of the most salient data, to serve as a summary of the first eighty years of archaeology in the territory. In addition, the author provides anecdotes from his own experience in the field since 1970, to give a flavour of the issues, controversies and personalities that have characterized local archaeology.

The book will be valuable to the lay reader who is interested in the subject, and to archaeologists and other scholars who seek a broad overview of the data of local archaeology.

William Meacham is an archaeologist specializing in South China. He has written or edited seven books on archaeology, including Rock Carvings in Hong Kong: An Illustrated and Interpretive Study (1976) and Archaeology in Hong Kong (1980), as well as books on English teaching and on the Shroud of Turin. He has published extensively on various aspects of South China archaeology in peer-reviewed international journals including Antiquity, Asian Perspectives, Archaeology, World Archaeology, Current Anthropology, and Journal of Chinese Linguistics. He has also written on subjects related to the Turin Shroud in Current Anthropology, Biblical Archaeologist, and Michigan Quarterly Review. His other research interests are the origins of the Austronesian-speaking peoples and genealogy. William Meacham has lived in Hong Kong since 1970, holding positions at the Hong Kong Museum of History and the Christian Study Centre on Chinese Religion and Culture. Since 1980, he has been Honorary Research Fellow at the Centre of Asian Studies, the University of Hong Kong. He was editor of the Hong Kong Archaeological Society (1973–85) and chairman of the society (1985–96). He has directed more than thirty archaeological excavations in Hong Kong and Macau on government or private contract. The largest of these was the sixteen-month survey and salvage excavation of Chek Lap Kok island, site of Hong Kong’s new airport, from 1991 to 1992.

“Hong Kong, for a small area, has had more archaeological research and publication over the last century than any similar location. Because of its central position its history is important for a much wider area.” —Professor W. G. Solheim, Archaeological Studies Program, University of the Philippines and Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, University of Hawaii

“Meacham transports the reader from the early ‘gentleman amateurs’ to the recent phase of ‘rescue archaeology’, assembling the diverse findings to chronicle Hong Kong’s rich cultural heritage. A compelling read, and indispensable reference work.” —Raynor Shaw, geologist, travel guide writer, and co-author of Hong Kong Landscapes: Shaping the Barren Rock