Research Overview

The Peinan Site is located in the northwest of the Taitung City, on the southeast side of the Peinan Mountain, and on the western river terrace of the Peinan River. The river terrace is facing the Coastal Range on the eastern side with the Peinan River in between and connects the Taitung Plain in the south. The location at N 22°47’40” and E 121°06’48” is believed to be a possible center of the Peinan Site (Wen-Hsun Sung & Chao-Mei Lien, 2004: 15-22).


The earliest records of the Peinan Site were the photos taken by Ryuzo Torii of the stone pillars on the ground surface at the contemporary site in 1896. However, the photos were not released until 1990 (Wen-Hsun Sung & Chao-Mei Lien, 2004: 32). Therefore, the photos of the Peinan Site in Vol. 2 of Report on the Old Customs of Barbarian Tribes published in 1915 (Kono Karoku, 1915) can be seen as the earliest available literature. Tadao Kano (1930, 1952) conducted 10 surveys at the Peinan Site between 1929 and 1937. It was referred to as the Vuno Site. Although it was mentioned in his related articles that excavations were performed, none of the excavations was recorded or published (Tadao Kano 1952:164; Tadao Kano 1955:96 translated by WenHsun Sung). Investigations on the Peinan Site at this time were still considered as ethnology-oriented studies and interpretations (Chao-Mei Lien, 2008: 3-4).


Archaeological excavations at the Peinan Site with explicit records were those performed by Kaneseki Takeo and Kokubu Naoichi in 1945 (Kaneseki Takeo & Kokubu Naoichi, 1990: 126-162, translated by Chi-Shan Tan). They chose the area by the largest stone pillar on the ground surface at the time to perform archeological excavations. A large number of ceramic and stone tools and building structures were unearthed. The structures appeared to be oriented in a northeast and southwest direction with a length of around 15cm and a width of around 4.2 to 4.3m and hence were extrapolated to be those of a house. The excavation process had to stop due to the war.

Following the war, many Taiwanese scholars investigated the Peinan Site and foreign scholars R. Pearson, H. Egli, and E. Kaneko also visited the Site in 1970, 1972, and between 1978 and 1979, respectively. It was not until 1980, when the South Link Railway construction began and the Site was severely damaged due to projects such as the Peinan New South Link Railway Station (Today’s Taitung Station) and the train yard inside the station, that the local government authorized the archeological team from the National Taiwan University spearheaded by Wen-Hsun Sung and Chao-Mei Lien to preserve the Site. The preservation project consisted of 13 stages which were completed over a period of nine years. The area unearthed during the first 8 stages was around 7550m2. However, due to limited time, only funerary objects inside slate coffins and burial data were recovered. More complete building structures were uncovered and recorded during the later stages of the excavation, i.e. from Stages 9 to 13 (Chao-Mei Lien, 1989:66-77).


Thanks to the numerous and abundant remains that were found at the Peinan Site as a result of this large-scale preservation project, preparations for the “National Museum of Prehistory” could begin in 1983. In 1988, the Department of Anthropology of the National Taiwan University was again authorized to perform the “pilot excavations for the construction of the Taiwan’s National Museum of Prehistory at the Peinan Cultural Park.” Criss-cross sampling was adopted in this project. The archeological excavations took place in the Peinan Cultural Park at a distance interval of 100m. Results of the pilot excavations showed a denser and thicker cultural level in the eastern and southern parts of the Cultural Park with a lower altitude. On the other hand, sporadic remains were discovered from higher drill holes in the western part of the Park and the cultural level was thinner (Chao-Mei Lien & Wen-Hsun Sung, 1989:1-8, 51, 69-79).

In 1990, the Preparations Office for the National Museum of Prehistory was established to perform two pilot excavations on the planned sites for the parking lot and the Visitor Center on the southwestern side of the Peinan Cultural Park. “Basically, remains within this area were still the result of re-accumulation. The unearthed remnants were of smaller quantities and fewer types. Tools were seriously damaged. However, the residual tools were sufficient to tell that both the type and material of the tools were still within the scope of area where past tools were uncovered at the Peinan Site.” (Kun-Hsiu Li, 1993: 1-3, 32) In 1993, a large part of the Peinan Site was dug away by a “naive” landlord, resulting in exposure of a large number of remains and several slate coffins on the ground surface. It was not until later that the Preparations Office embarked on subsequent archeological plans in the damaged area. This event also became the first prosecuted and sentenced case for destruction of a pre-historical site following implementation of the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act in Taiwan (Kun-Hsiu Li, MeiChen Yeh, Shu-Ling Yang, 1994: 37-40, 43).


In 1997, to establish a showroom for the preserved contemporary Peinan Site, the Preparations Office built a make-shift archeological tent on a planned road of urban planning and performed the “site preserving demonstrative excavations.” It was referred to as the “archeological scene.” (Edited by Mei-Chen Yeh, 2009:10) The excavated area was 400m2 (Mei-Chen Yeh, 2005:11-1~12). It has been used for excavation studies and displays up to this date. Later, to understand the scope of the Peinan Site, the Museum performed investigations in the surrounding areas and archeological excavations were conducted in various regions (Kun-Hsiu Li, Mei-Chen Yeh, 2009).


The Stage II expansion of the Peinan Cultural Park was approved in 2008. The museum planed this expansion project comprehensively and proposed the “Shortterm archeological excavation plan for the Peinan Site within the scope of the Stage II expansion” in 2009. Besides confirming of the design and construction of the Stage II project for the Peinan Park and scope of the site preservation showroom, the main purpose was to define the distribution and content of remains within the Stage II scope of the Peinan Cultural Park (National Museum of Prehistory 2009).