The archaeology of trails in the Batongguan region of Taiwan: landscape, people, and mobility from the early seventeenth century to the present
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In this dissertation I consider the trails in the Batongguan (Pattonkan) region of Taiwan from an archaeological perspective. The Batongguan region is characterized by high altitude, steep terrain, dense vegetation, and extreme weather. Despite the difficult environment, several groups of people have settled in or controlled the region during the last four centuries: the Bunun (indigenous Taiwanese), the Chinese, and the Japanese. At present, there are no permanent inhabitants in the region but there are abundant traces of past habitations, and of the trails built and used by the successive occupants to traverse the region. These trails have been essential for travel. They have granted access to its wild landscape while at the same time gathering human movement across the region into set patterns. Using field study and archival research, I take a material culture perspective to examine how these trails were created and used from the pre-colonial early seventeenth century to the present. The configuration of the trails reflects practices of colonization in the region. With each modification, changes in social and political relations are revealed. For example, the Pattonkan Transmontane Trail constructed in 1921 demonstrated the Japanese state’s determination to control the Bunun country. Its four branch lines were built in the area’s most defiant districts. However, in the mid-1930s, while the Bunun-Japanese relations changed, the military trail then was used as a hiking route and its branch lines were abandoned. In the period under study, the component that was for some time the key to maintaining control over the trails, and thus the region, were the police outposts established by the Japanese administration from the 1920s to the 1940s. Examination of the physical layout of the outposts and the hygiene, medicinal, and foodways-related artifacts demonstrate that the police outposts marked the colonial frontier and also served the Japanese officers and their dependents, in effect allowing them to form households and carry on domestic lifeways. This dissertation shows that the study of trails sheds new light on the history of the Batongguan region, and offers a material cultural perspective on the dynamics of colonization in the area.