Artifact Identification


During the course of studying the Chinese in Montana, it is clear that the internet lacks a central location to help the public and archaeologists identify Chinese artifacts. This section of the Chinese in Montana website is completed in partnership with Gary Weisz, an avocational archaeologist in Idaho who possesses a tremendous collection of comparative materials he has acquired over the years. I hope to expand the artifact identification section through additional submissions of artifact photos. If anyone has additional information or more photographs relating please send Merritt an email that can be found under “Contact Us”. 

Chinese Ceramics


Glass Items

Opium Paraphernalia

Personal Items



Chinese Personal Items

Archaeologists discover fragments of all these styles at sites in Montana and elsewhere in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Unless otherwise noted, all items on this page are in the private collection of Gary Weisz. In addition, all photos on this page are by Gary Weisz.



Gambling Markers

Gaming Pieces



Oil Lamps



Chinese brass buttons purchased from Beijing, China.

Chinese brass buttons of the type commonly found on United States archaeological sites. Purchased from Beijing, China.

brass buttons

Silver Chinese buttons purchased from Beijing, China.

Silver Button

Metal bade or pin-back button from a Chinese restaurant. Back is stamped "P.C. STAMP WKS SEATTLE" or Pacific Coast Stamp Works. Pacific Coast Stamp Works began operations in Seattle in 1903 and operates today under the name Mastermark.

Chinese Button

Chinese brass buttons purchased from Beijing, China Note the raised relief endless knot, which is a sign of longevity.


Chinese glass buttons purchased from Beijing, China.

glass buttons

Chinese cobalt glass beads, starbust pattern from Shanghai, China.

blue glass beads


Brass Chinese padlock, ca. late 19th Century from Beijing China. Photo on left shows brass lock as closed with splitting key. Photo on right shows disassembled lock with (top to bottom) lock body, sliding bolt and splitting springs, and the brass key.

Brass Chinese lock with splitting springs as found at Chinese archaeological site in Idaho. Splitting key on left came from Chinese site in Montana.

Chinese brass locks with keys. Ox motif lock at top from Nanning, China. Bat motif lock at bottom from Shanghai, China.


Gaming Pieces

Chinese bone dice, purchased from New York. Similar dice found at Los Angeles Chinatown excavations.

Bone dice


Metal wok spatula with Chinese lettering, purchased from Wisconsin. Similar spatula found in Tucson Arizona Chinatown and at German Gulch excavations in Montana.

Wok spatula

Chinese brass scales purchased from Oregon.

brass scales

Wood Chinese needle-puller purchased from Beijing, China.

needle puller

Chinese metal tweezers from Beijing, China.


Incised Chinese character cut into a mattock found buried atop the 1882 Northern Pacific Railroad 600 feet long rock cut at Cabinet, Idaho. This character was translated as probably being "abundant", but could also be the Chinese surname "Feng".

incised mattock incised mattock


Chinese memorial tablet plate purchased from San Gabriel, California. These were displayed at Chinese funerals in China and buried with the deceased.

Memorial Table 1

Chinese memorial tablet plate from the Asian American Comparative Collection, University of Idaho. Donated by Gary Weisz.

Memorial Tablet 2

Semi-porcelain seal paste box memorial tablets purchased from California.

memorial tablets

Oil Lamps

Read more about Chinese Oil Lamps at:
Life in Guangzhou Online Newspaper

Chinese rush wick oil dish from the Tek Sing 1822 shipwreck. Chinese oil lamps remained basically the same from at least this point to the early 20th century, purchased from England.

oil lamp

Chinese split bamboo rush wick oil lamp stand with oil dish purchased from Oregon.

oil lamp stand

Chinese iron oil lamp purchased from Connecticut. This style of lamp is called a Po Po lamp (grandmother lamp).

po po lamp

Chinese rush wick oil lamp with three mice on rim, with oil lamp resting on mice's noses. Lamp from China and dish from San Gabriel, California.

oil lamp with mice

Chinese oil lamp dish, purchased from Virginia.

oil lamp dish

Chinese traditional rush wicks for oil lamps, from Guangzhou, China.

Rush wicks


Two brass box hinges displaying Chinese characters found on archaeological sites in Idaho.

Paktong (nickel/silver alloy) table fork used to spear food from serving bowls or dishes. A similar item was excavated from Union Station excavations in Los Angeles.

table fork

Silver Chinese thimble purchased from Beijing, China.

thimble thimble

Paktong (nickel/silver) Chinese thimble from Brugge, Belgium.


Brass shoehorns purchased from Tianjin, China.


Chinese stone seals with box, purchased from Beijing, China.

Stone seals

Chinese wood seal with bell design at top, purchased from China. The name reads Gold Bell Shop.

wood seal

Chinese calligraphy brush holders and washers. Left from Naugatuck, Connecticut, and Right from Beijing China.

brush holders

Chinese calligraphy water dropper used for mixing ink, from Beijing, China.

water dropper

Molded Chinese candles with "Double Happiness" design. Note that both candles have the traditional hollow reed wicks.


Chinese brass candle snuffers from Beijing, China.

candle snuffers

Chinese stoneware spittoon with dragon motif purchased from Shanghai, China. A spittoon was commonly used by opium smokers.


Wood shuttles with bobbins, for Chinese hand-weaving looms. Top from Beijing, China and Bottom from Nanyang, China.

wood shuttle

Wood thread winding boards and a red thread spool purchased from Beijing, China.

wood thread boards

Chinese baby's longevity lock necklace for "Long Life" and "All Ones Life Safety", from Beijing, China, similar example in the Asian American Comparative Collection.