The historical archaeology of the Chinese in Far North Queensland


  • Heather Burke Department of Archaeology, Flinders University
  • Gordon Grimwade Department of Archaeology, Flinders University



The first Overseas Chinese immigrants to Far North Queensland (FNQ) arrived in 1868 and within 20 years had established a wide range of settlements keyed directly into Chinese merchant supply networks. Historical archaeology on some of these sites has been carried out since the mid-1980s, but has largely been consultancy-driven, creating data that are patchy, skewed towards urban centres and often non-comparable. Such comparisons as can be drawn relating to dining and drinking behaviours, however, show assemblages dominated by traditional ceramic bowls and a high proportion of plain celadon and Four Seasons decorated wares, but an early and decided preference for European alcohols. Continued adherence to Chinese cultural preferences relating to food but not to alcohol suggests that concepts of identity and the construction of the self may have been constructed differently in each arena. While limited in depth, the archaeology of the Overseas Chinese in FNQ highlights critical gaps and provides a preliminary platform from which to identify future research directions, particularly a need to supplement impact assessment-related studies with detailed surface recording and/or carefully targeted open area excavations in order to advance knowledge beyond basic presence/absence questions.