Taiwan only has about four hundred years of history in the strict sense, as life on the island began to be documented in the 17th century. Before this, however, Taiwan had long been inhabited by preliterate aboriginal peoples, meaning that the island has a long prehistorical period. Archaeology, which is in essence the study of excavated materials, inevitably plays a vital role in the reconstruction of Taiwan’s past as an integral whole and in the investigation of the interrelationship with its surrounding areas.
Archaeology in Taiwan began in 1896, and is thus over a century old. New development in the field was sparked when in 1949 the Institute of History and Philology moved to Taiwan, bringing in its archeologists and research traditions from the expedition in central plain, northern China. Archaeological researchers of the IHP are primarily concerned with reconstructing history and culture of Taiwan. They have conducted surveys and excavations at sites throughout Taiwan with scientific methods in order to proceed intensive research concerning the time and space structure, interaction among ethnic groups, social development, environmental adaptation, settlement types, and trading interaction. Recently in confronting damages caused by urbanization projects on archaeological sites, IHP takes on the responsibility for saving, preserving, and educational promoting the archaeological properties.