Cultural and Socio-economic Interaction Reflected by Glass Beads in Early Iron Age Taiwan

by K Wang

Institution: University of Sheffield
Year: 2016
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2064734
Full text PDF: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/14326/


The archaeological record witnesses the presence of glass beads in early Iron Age Taiwan and the potential evidence of glass beadmaking on the southeastern coast. Previous research has proposed that the appearance of glass beads in Taiwan is in association with the South China Sea exchange network, and this particular material culture replaced the indigenous nephrite in local societies in Taiwan. Therefore, this research studies glass beads from 7 Iron Age sites (Kiwulan, Jiuxianglan, Guishan, Daoye, Wujiancuo, Shisanhang and Xiliao) in Taiwan in an attempt to understand the provenance and hence exchange, consumption and production of glass beads in the 1st millennium AD in Taiwan and the interaction shown by these specific goods with the South China Sea network. Beads from around the island, from Kiwulan, Jiuxianglan, Guishan, Daoye and Wujiancuo are analysed data in this research, and this is supplemented with data from Shisanhang and Xiliao from published reports. The evidence of glass beadmaking from Jiuxianglan is also investigated. The material covers a wide geographic region including northern, northeastern, southeastern, southern and southwestern Taiwan, and spans the 1st millennium AD. To elucidate the research questions, the methodology chosen combines the typological study, compositional analysis (to trace elemental level), microstructural investigation and archaeological context of glass beads from each site. This research proposes regional and chronological patterns in terms of the typology and chemical composition of glass beads in early Iron Age Taiwan, which suggests primarily a Southeast Asian source of early Iron Age glass beads in Taiwan and later a transition to a Chinese origin during the turn of the 2nd millennium AD. The results also indicate the presence of a regional exchange network within Taiwan, particularly within northern and northeastern Taiwan, which may be related to the socio-political interaction between societies. It is also found that the mortuary contexts of glass beads from different sites shows different degrees of social differentiation between the broad eastern and southwestern Taiwan. In addition, this research reveals a paradox between the glass beads and glass waste from Jiuxianglan, which does not suggest the local production of finished beads at this site. The findings also do not indicate the exchange of glass beads made at Jiuxianglan to other contemporary sites in Taiwan. In addition, the production of m-Na-Al glass and v-Na-Ca glass and their movement within the broad South China Sea network suggests the possibility of shared knowledge but less standardised process of m-Na-Al glass production of the beads found in Taiwan, and a different tradition of glass colouring between m-Na-Al glass and v-Na-Ca glasses which may be related to different provenances.