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Amache Archaeology Collection

Connecting the Pieces: Dialogues on the Amache Archaeology Collection Online Exhibit  

tea pot lid fragment

Porcelain, 1.75" wide. Found in Block 8F. 

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This item's size and shape indicate it is a fragment from the lid of a porcelain teapot or porcelain jar. The intact lid would have been about 2" in diameter. Archaeologists found the fragment in the dirt between the barracks and the Mess Hall. Based on its texture and Chinese-inspired designs, common motifs on Japanese ceramics, it was most likely made in Japan and brought to Amache by one of the families there.

Tea drinking and tea ceremonies were unifying events in Japanese culture and a tradition that continued at Amache. A family's heirlooms were respected and taken care of, especially dishware. The presence of this teapot at Amache indicates the owners' strong attachment to their heritage. The teapot and its meaning brought a sense of cultural normalcy to a new, disconcerting home.

- Olivia van den Berg, DU Student Curator

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Tea grown on the Amache form being dried in the outdoor shed for use in the mess halls.

Courtesy of The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. 

personal reflection

I chose this object because it seems familiar to me. Growing up, we celebrated O-shogatsu (New Year's Day) with osechi-ryori, many special foods to bring us luck and prosperity in the New Year. Obaachan (great-grandmother) and my grandmother would cook and prepare special foods for many days and that's when the special sara (plates) would come out. A dozen large, beautifully painted platters and bowls filled with savory delicacies only served once a year. I remember sitting at the table, tracing the intricate swirls and geometric patterns with my eyes.

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Osechi-ryori traditional Japanese foods eaten on the Near Year.

Courtesy of Dave Nakayama, www.flickr.com. 

Amazing how a small fragment of a teapot brings back wonderful memories of family and food.

When I held this object in my hand, I started to wonder about the family and how this teapot must have been very important to them to bring it to camp if you could only bring what you could carry. If they're like my family, they took measures to keep the teapot from breaking. I imagine this teapot must have provided some comfort and helped them remember life on the other side of the barbed-wire fence, a time when freedom was as natural as breathing.

How did the teapot get broken? Why was there only one small fragment found and where is the rest of it?

The fragment is in excellent condition as if it was recently broken and not buried in the desolate earth.

Was the family sad to lose their treasured belonging? Or, was it easy to leave behind the broken pieces along with the trauma and shame of being yanked from their homes simply because they were Japanese?

Little did they know that the trauma and shame would forever leave an indelible mark in their family history. Little did they know that the sherd of teapot was a piece of their broken spirit and, while you can bury it for a while, it will resurface someday.

- Erin Yoshimura Yonsei, Community Curator (fourth generation Japanese American).  Erin's parents, grandparents and great grandparents were incarcerated in Tule Lake and Rohwer.


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Left: Erin Yoshimura, Community Curator. Right: Olivia van den Berg, DU Student Curator.