People: Scarlett Chiu
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Scarlett Chiu
Center for Archaeological Studies
Academia Sinica
#128, Sec. 2, Yen-chiu-yuan Rd.
NanKang, Taipei, Taiwan 115

I recently received my Ph.D. from the Department of Anthropology of U.C. Berkeley. I am now working as an Assistant Research Fellow in the Center for Archaeological Studies, Academia Sinica, NanKang, Taipei. My most recent project involves a multi-disciplinary investigation of prehistoric sites in the region of ChoShui and Tatu rivers, where the late professor K. C. Chang investigated some 50 years ago. My job is to study Nui-Ma-T'ou pottery and its local variations, dated to 4500-3500BP, in order to construct a future study plan and establish a standardized database for pottery remains that will be collected by the new Choshui and Tatu Rivers Project. The relation between Ta-Pen-Keng and Nui-Ma-T'ou pottery in the prehistory of Taiwan is the main interest of my project.

For my Ph. D. I studied pottery remains excavated from the Lapita Site 13 (WKO013A, ca. 1100-800 B.C.) of Koné, New Caledonia. The significance of the Lapita Site 13 project was framed specifically in terms of the prehistory of Southwest Pacific. However, it became clear that its questions are of general theoretical interest for the study of immigration, involving colonization strategy, kin-group affiliation and identification, the maintenance and/or disappearance of socio-economic exchange networks, and the intensification and specialization of local production. These general theoretical topics form the basis of the development and growth of socio-economic complexity amongst the early populations of the Pacific. The socio-economic implications of the rapid abandonment of such labor-intensive dentate-stamped technique after initial settlement were also considered and put into the context of competing theories about the importance of dentate-stamped Lapita pottery in these early societies.

Thus an interpretation of Lapita pottery and its roles in social differentiation in a possible house society that was constantly expanding into new islands of the Pacific is proposed. A ceramic assemblage from Site 13A of Koné, New Caledonia is examined and compared with numerous ethnographic studies of Oceanic, Southeast Asian societies, and their materialized house/clan symbols. Lapita pottery is seen as an authentic item associated with founding ancestors to express a house’s social, economic, political, and spiritual status, and to further generate not only social identity, but also power and social inequality. As long as these Lapita pots were decorated with dentate-stamps, as long as they carried however simplified version of human faces, they were reproduced for the social purpose of passing on the tradition, of providing chances for their owners to present their profound knowledge and great grasps of their family histories, of claiming titles and resources that are rightfully theirs, thus, of constructing a path to spiritual and political power. It has been argued the value of a material symbol, as an inalienable possession, through its real or imagined path to ancestors and thus rights over material and immaterial wealth, accumulates power to express over time. Lapita pottery, and its social roles in Lapita societies, are both historically made, and constitute history in the making.

I completed my M.A. in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, and my B.A. in the Department of Anthropology at the National Taiwan University. I have participated in several archaeological projects on various Pacific islands including Niou-Chio-Tsi (Tainan, Taiwan); Shih-Shen-Hung, Yuan-Shan, Chi-Shan-Yen, and He-Dien-Chung IV (Taipei, Taiwan); Kahikinui District (Maui, Hawaii); Lapita Site 13 (Koné, New Caledonia); and Tongaleleka and ‘Uiha (Ha'apai Islands, Kingdom of Tonga).


Chiu, S. 2004. Meanings of a Lapita face: materialized social memory in ancient house societies. Paper in preparation.

Chiu, S. 2003. The Socio-economic Functions of Lapita Ceramic Production and Exchange: A Case Study from Site WKO013A, Koné, New Caledonia. Ph. D. Thesis. Department of Anthropology, University of California at Berkeley.

Chiu, S. 2002. Social and economic meanings of Lapita pottery: a New Caledonian case. Paper presented at the International Conference for the 50th anniversary of the first Lapita excavation (Pacific Archaeology: Assessments and Prospects), Nouméa, New Caledonia, July 2002.

Chiu, S. 2002. Compositional analysis of Lapita pottery and related wares from WKO013A, Koné, New Caledonia. Paper presented at the 17th Congress of Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association, Taipei, Taiwan, Sept. 2002.
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