Fri, May 30, 2014 - Page 4 News List

Spanish remnants found

By Lu Hsien-hsiu and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Tsang Cheng-hwa, leader of an excavation project on Heping Island in Keelung harbor, right, is joined by members of an archeological research team from Spain at the site on Tuesday.

Photo: Lu Hsien-hsiu, Taipei Times

An archeology team has uncovered the foundations of a Spanish chapel on an island off northern Taiwan.

Scientists said that it is an important discovery which sheds light on the history of the European colonial era during the 17th century.

The chapel was part of the Fort San Salvador complex on Heping Island (和平島) in a strategic position at the mouth of Keelung harbor and was built by the Spanish during their brief occupation of northern Taiwan more than 300 years ago.

The excavation is an international collaboration between the Academia Sinica, headed by project leader Tsang Cheng-hwa (臧振華), and an archeological research team from Spain.

Tsang, a research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of History and Philology, said three corners of the chapel’s foundations were uncovered at the dig, which is taking place at a parking lot on the island.

He added that skeletal remains of two males were found at the site, one complete skeleton and another which was incomplete. The remains were judged to be contemporaneous with the fort complex.

“Right now we are not sure if the remains belong to the Spanish, or the Formosan Aborigines who were the main inhabitants of the northern coast during that time. So DNA tests will be conducted to determine their origin... It could turn out that these are the oldest evidence of the Spanish occupation yet found in Taiwan,” Tsang said.

Tsang said the dig enabled the team to determine the exact location of the chapel and it correlates with the position shown on maps of the period.

The team found that the Spanish garrison used materials they found on the island to build the chapel, as a section of the wall matched rocks found in nearby hills.

When excavating deeper around the chapel site, the team dug up much older archeological relics dating back to 2,500 to 3,000 years ago, including stone tools, pottery pieces and decorative items made from Taiwanese jade.

“This indicated that ancient civilizations were active on Heping Island and in the whole northern coastal area more than 3,000 years ago. Due to these recent finds, we will expand our excavation efforts around Fort San Salvador in the coming years, because these are important Taiwanese cultural treasures,” Tsang said.

The fort was a key stronghold during the brief Spanish occupation of northern Taiwan in the 17th century.

In 1626, Spain dispatched a fleet of warships from Manila, and sailed to Quelang — the old name for Keelung — as the fort was built that year.

For its defensive fortifications and firepower, at one time Fort San Salvador had 27 copper cannons and six iron cannons, according to Spanish documents.

After some years of battling for trade concessions and colonial holdings, in 1642 Spain ceded the fort to the Dutch, who renamed it Fort Noord-Holland.

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