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Permanent Exhibition

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Permanent Exhibition “Back to Shihsanhang”

As visitors stand outside the entrance, the impressive external structure of the Shihsanhang Museum of Archaeology allows visitors to feel like they have returned to Shihsanhang Archaeological Site of the past. There are three distinct groups of buildings, two of which represent the land and sea. The third is the slightly slanted posture of the specially designed octagonal tower and the surface of the high exposed concrete walls, which represent to "the inability to recreate" and "the historical truth that can't be restored.”


The exhibition area is arranged like a time tunnel, which invites visitors to visit the past, to experience the history of Shihsanhang Culture. The main focus of the exhibition is to display the relics unearthed at the Shihsanhang Site, including the unique “Anthropomorphic Jar”, that is the basis for the current museum logo.


1. Discovering Shihsanhang

This exhibition area is located at the left hand side of the lobby area on the first floor of the museum. An interactive display with a model airplane and iron slag allows visitors to relive the discovery of the Shihsanhang site. The story goes that, in the autumn of 1955, an air force major observed that his compass displayed a strange reaction as he flew over Kuanyin Mountain. He initially thought he had discovered an unknown iron ore deposit, which was affecting his instruments. The major decided to investigate with the geologist Chao Chi Lin to conduct a survey of the area. They saw that there were many pieces of iron and iron slag on the ground and realized that what they had discovered was the remains of prehistoric iron smelting. Additionally, many prehistoric potsherds, stone supports, and pitted pebbles were also found. These made it possible to determine that what had been found was indeed a prehistorical site. In accordance with archaeological tradition and local nomenclature, the site was named “Shihsanhang Site”.


This area also shows a cross section of earth strata taken from the site, a model of an archaeological test pit, and video footage of excavation work at the site. These additional displays are intended to convey a basic knowledge of archaeological processes.



2. Rescuing Shihsanhang

In 1989, the government planned to construct a sewage treatment plant in the area, a move that would completely destroy the Shihsanhang Site. A group of archaeologists grouped together to write a petition to the government to save the site, which received widespread support from the public. Finally, they were given an opportunity to conduct “rescue excavation.”


The main focus of this exhibition area is to record this major event in Taiwanese history. It indicated a growing awareness of the contradiction between the preservation of cultural heritage and economic development at this point in time, as well as a genuine attempt to prevent any reoccurrence. The display in this area shows clips of newspaper reports and video coverage from that time. A digger, protestors’ banners, and models of unearthed relics from the site take viewers back to the scene of the “rescue excavation”, and let them experience the pressures of the period.



3. Exploring Shihsanhang

There are records of an aboriginal tribe in Bali area as long ago as the period of Spanish and Dutch rule. Early on in the Ch’ing Dynasty, Bali was a prosperous port and one of the most important points for Chinese immigrants seeking to settle in Northern Taiwan. This exhibition area mainly details the history of Bali and the social changes the area has undergone. The history of Bali can be broadly divided into four periods: “Prosperous Bali”, “Chinese Settlement in early Ch’ing Period”, “Dutch and Spanish Period”, and “Prehistoric Period”.


This exhibit also shows the geological changes the Bali area has been through. The drilling of rock formations identified a number of characteristics in the area stretching from Wazihwei to Shihsanhang; Over 10,000 years ago, this area was land, but from 6,000-10,000 years ago, a rise in sea levels across the world covered this area in ocean. This state persisted until the water receded around 6,000 years ago as a result of sediment accumulation. It was here that the people of Shihsanhang settled and large-scale settlement began 1,800 years ago.


In recent years, the construction of the Taipei Harbor seawall has resulted in a dramatic increase in the accumulation of sediment in coastal areas south of the Tamshui River estuary and north of the seawall. Artificial structures are another reason for changes in the coastal line.



4. Entering Shihsanhang

This exhibition area is circular and introduces visitors to what scientists believe Shihsanhang settlement was like. On display are the results of archaeological research combined with reasoned hypotheses, which were used to recreate images of how the people of Shihsanhang probably lived, including trade, burials, handicraft skills, clothing, homes and settlements etc. In order to bring the people of Shihsanhang to life, this area is like a performance arena, including specially created sound effects, lights and a narrated story entitled “A Day in the Life of Shihsanhang People”. The aim is to make the distant lives of these people seem as realistic as possible.


To make the reconstruction more realistic, the graphic designers not only established times and locations, but also used actual images from the Bali coast and invited actors to play the roles of Shihsanhang residents as part of a photographic record of their life. As a result, this presentation of aboriginal life is particularly vivid, making it all the easier to imagine oneself watching the past in motion.



5. Encountering Shihsanhang

This area is the focus of the Shihsanhang exhibition, because it is here that artifacts unearthed at the site are on display. The presentation of actual cultural artifacts presents us with a window into the society of the people of Shihsanhang. In addition, this area also contains more detailed explanations of a Shihsanhang burial. Also on display are figures of Shihsanhang residents, whose facial features are based on careful

Shihsanhang residents, their facial features reconstructed from bones unearthed at the site.



6. Understanding Shihsanhang 

This hallway has a row of computers where visitors can watch short videos or play interactive games. This exhibition area seeks to be as informative as possible, so that those interested in learning more about the people of Shihsanhang have the opportunity to satisfy their curiosity. In this area, visitors can also watch videotapes entitled: “Replicated Cultural Layer – Display of Production Records”, “Archaeological Excavation Diary”, “How to Determine the Era of the Shihsanhang site”, “Plains Aborigines in Taiwan,” and “Austronesians in Taiwan” and animated features on hunting and iron smelting in Shihsanhang.