Written by Melissa Dunk
Atherton Chinatown is arguably one of the most thoroughly researched Chinese sites in North Queensland. The strong Chinese presence at Atherton was mainly within the designated area outside of the main township and over time, has not been subject to development. Several archaeological studies have been conducted in the Atherton Chinatown district from 1981 to 2015. The the majority of the collection related to this site were discovered in these excavations, but the collection is also made up of items that have been given back to the museum from the public, object which are presumed to have originally come from the site.
This complete bottle belongs to the Atherton Chinatown assemblage, which contains over 2,000 artefacts and is managed by the National Trust of Queensland.
The bottle’s unique identifier is the embossed Japanese Katakana characters that wrap around the outside of the bottle. These characters triggered my memories of high school Japanese class.
In studying this bottle, I was struggling to work out the bottles use and contents by translating the Japanese Katakana characters. These characters were key as it is a Japanese syllabary for non-Japanese borrowed words. The characters on the bottle were ‘ru-bee nir-ki’ and they didn’t make much sense to me. Was it a person’s name: Ruby Nurkey? Was I reading it wrong?
With a little bit of web assistance, I searched for Japanese bottles and different types of bottles, and my ‘ah hah’ moment hit. If you read the characters from right to left, as Japanese is meant to be read, it transliterates to ‘kirin beeru’.
The bottle likely held beer manufactured by Kirin Beer which was established in Yokohama, Japan in 1885. FOr more information see: http://www.kirinholdings.co.jp/english/company/history/group/01.html.