Some important archaeological finds have been unearthed in an unprecedented rescue excavation jointly conducted by the Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO) of the Home Affairs Bureau and three Chinese archaeological institutions at Ho Chung, Sai Kung to salvage cultural remains which would otherwise be destroyed by the proposed Hiram's Highway Improvement Project.
The excavation commenced on April 2, 1999 under the direction of AMO and involving some 50 archaeological experts from the Anthropology Department of Zhongshan University, the Guangxi Provincial Archaeological Team and the Hunan Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology. The project was remarkable in terms of the diversity and scale of expertise committed to such a single excavation and the size of area it covered - exceeding 1,400 square metres.
The Ho Chung Archaeological Site was discovered by the archaeological team from the Hunan Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology in 1997 when they were conducting an archaeological survey in the Kowloon and Sai Kung Districts. This survey was part of the Second Territory-wide Archaeological Survey in Hong Kong which was directed by AMO in 1997. The territory-wide archaeological survey led to the discovery of some new archaeological sites in Hong Kong. The Ho Chung Archaeological Site is one of the significant new sites discovered in Sai Kung District.
The Site is situated at the southern bank of the Ho Chung River, on a gentle hill slope between four to eight metres above sea level, occupying an area of about 2,000 square metres.
The rescue excavation at Ho Chung Archaeological Site yielded remains of three cultural phases, namely Late Neolithic (circa 2,000 B.C.), Tang and Song dynasties (A.D. 618 - 1127), and Ming and Qing dynasties (A.D. 1368 - 1911). Pottery sherds with 'double F' designs and impressed with geometric patterns dating to Bronze Age (circa 1,000 B.C.) were collected on the surface and the topsoil of the site, suggesting that the site was inhabited about 3,000 years ago.
The discovery of the Neolithic "Workshop" for manufacturing stone tools at Ho Chung is another significant archaeological find in Hong Kong since the discovery of ancient burials and skeletal remains at North Tung Wan Tsai, Ma Wan in 1997, which provides valuable data for the study of the stone-working technology, culture and history of the prehistoric people in Hong Kong, and also the entire South China as a whole.
The main archaeological artefacts unearthed from the upper cultural layer of Ming and Qing dynasties are porcelain sherds of blue and white ware, green glazed ware and brown glazed ware. Among them, the porcelains in green glaze from Jindezhen were finely made. The porcelain forms include bowl, basin, dish, cup and cover.
The middle cultural layer is marked by a red layer with manganese, in which cultural relics dating back to Tang and Song dynasties (about 1,000 years ago) were found.
Since the Ho Chung Archaeological Site is located at the portal area of the Ho Chung River, it is also believed that there was an ancient pier during Tang dynasty and Northern Song dynasty. The large number of postholes discovered underneath the red layer indicates that a wide range of structures was built on this river terrace during the Song dynasty.
Professor Zeng Qi from Zhongshan University pointed out that the postholes are remains of pile-dwelling or semi-pile-dwelling structures, similar to the present day stilted-structures of local fishermen. Experts also noted that the porcelains unearthed from the cultural layer of Song dynasty came from 19 kiln sites throughout the country such as the Jian kilns, Bai Ma kilns (Wei yang), Lian Jiang kilns and similar sites. These further suggest that there was an ancient pier during Song dynasty. The main artefacts of this cultural layer are porcelains in green glaze, white glaze, and green and white glaze. There are bowls, plates, pots, covers, basins, grinding bowls and jar with four lugs.
The lower cultural layer was dated back to the Neolithic period and located about one metre below the surface. Chipped stone tools and polished stone implements were unearthed together with some roughouts and worked stone debris. The most spectacular discovery is a "workshop" for manufacturing stone tools uncovered in excavation square 17G, covering an area of about 200 square metres, in which large quantity of stone cores, flakes, tools and an activity floor of about 20 square metres were found.
The main chipped stone tools are the pointed implements or oyster picks made of tuff. Polished stone implements include axes, adzes and quartz rings and slotted rings. There are two types of polishing stones, the large and the small ones. Most of them are fine-grained sandstones which are ideal for polishing the surfaces and edges of stone artefacts. The raw material for stone cores and flakes are mostly tuff, sandstone and quartzite. The most unique and rare stone artefacts discovered should be the carefully chipped quartz points and small carving tools.
The Neolithic layer also yields a few coarse pottery sherds of cauldron and jar with corded decoration. There are also fragments of pot stand. According to the feature of the unearthed pottery sherds, the lower cultural layer of this site could be dated back to 4,000 years ago.
End/Tuesday, July 6, 1999