International Journal of Historical Archaeology

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 123-134

First online:

Peck-Marked Vessels from the San José Market Street Chinatown: A Study of Distribution and Significance

  • Gina MichaelsAffiliated withDepartment of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University Email author 

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Ceramic bowls and plates with Chinese characters pecked into their surfaces are documented on almost every nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Chinatown site in California. Typically, these vessels are said to bear marks of ownership, and further analysis has been uncommon. Given the socio-political atmosphere surrounding Chinese immigration and labor during this time period, as well as the cultural relevance of this marking practice, it is the author's belief that this explanation is incomplete. Through analysis of archaeological materials from the Market Street Chinatown in San José, California, this paper explores the possibility that Chinese immigrants were using and hybridizing the familiar Chinese cultural practice of marking vessels to aid in creating an environment within the Chinatown that was both more comfortable and more livable.


Chinatown porcelain peck marks hybridization