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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5334/ai.


historic chiefdom more directly, in 1987 I

Later prehistory of the Philippines: initiated an archaeological project in the
Dumaguete-Bacong region of southeast­
colonial images and archaeology ern Negros Island (Fig. 3) under the
auspices of the Archaeology Division of
Elisabeth A. Bacus the Philippine National Museum and in
The colonial experience of the Philippine Islands as a Spanish collaboration with anthropologists from
and, more recently, an American dependency, has shaped West­ Silliman University in Dumaguete City.
ern peceptions of the people and history of the archipelago. Archaeological investigations in
Little has been known about the islands' precolonial past, but southeastern Negros Island
archaeologists are now beginning to investigate it, as in the Before 1 98 7 , only one site (Magsuhot,5
project on the island of Negros described here. which is also referred to as Bacong or
Solamillo; Fig. 3) had been systematically
excavated in this area. In addition to yield­
he Philippine Islands experi­ pearls, gold ore and cotton. Philippine ing evidence of late-thirteenth to mid­

enced more than 3 5 0 years of chiefs sought goods such as glazed ceramics fifteenth-century habitation, the excava­
Spanish and American colonial (porcelains). glass beads, silk, lacquerware tion uncovered seven burials in pottery j ars
rule, and they lack prehistoric and iron: items that appear to have been dated to the final two centuries BC and the
monuments and preserved in­ valued as status symbols by chiefs, were first century AD. They contained human
digenous writings of uncontested authen­ essential in sociopolitical negotiations, and skeletal remains, glass beads and bracelets,
ticity.1 It is therefore not surprising that enhanced a chief's ability to maintain and iron implements, human and animal figu­
foreign images shape our views of later increase political authority. rines, animal remains, and decorated earth­
Philippine prehistory (defined broadly as This picture oflate prehistoric and early enware vessels, including one vessel in
from the tenth to the sixteenth century AD) . historic Philippine chiefdoms draws on human form, one with attached animal fig­
Most colonial images probably in some foreign accounts, primarily Chinese and ures, and one with human female figures
way misrepresent pre-Hispanic (and later) early Spanish records, and shows that they sitting around the opening of the jar. This
Filipino societies. Misrepresentations range can be important sources of information, excavation provided evidence of a longer
from inaccuracies that stem from early cul­ but they can also constrain our under­ sequence of prehistoric occupation than
tural encounters, such as the earliest Span­ standing of the indigenous societies. Until was (and still is) currently documented for
ish explorers' description ofVisayans - the recently, there has been little reliable the Bais region to the north (Fig. 3 ) . the only
inhabitants of the islands between Luzon archaeological evidence with which to part of the island where a regional archae­
and Mindanao (Fig. 1) - as pintados (painted assess the nature of, and transformations ological project had been undertaken prior
men; Fig. 2) when actually they were in, the social, political, economic and to the initiation of my project.
tatooed, to more recent racist views legiti­ ideological attributes of pre-Hispanic The main aim of the Dumaguete-Bacong
mizing colonial power, such as the Span­ Philippine societies.4 Therefore, in order project is to investigate long-term socio­
ish and later American portrayals of to investigate one example of a late pre- political and economic transformations in
Filipinos as "savages" before they came
under the civilizing influence of Europe­
ans. 2 There has long been debate over the
nature and history of pre-Hispanic Philip­
pine society, its social forms and political
institutions,3 but without archaeological
research, such as the project described
here, the debate is unlikely to be resolved.
Before describing the project, it is helpful
to set it in the larger context of late pre­
historic Philippine societies.
The late prehistoric period ended with
the establishment of colonial rule in 1565 -
although this had been preceded by several
Spanish expeditions, beginning with Mag­
ellan's voyage of 1 521 - and it witnessed a
growing involvement of the archipelago's
societies in international foreign trade (Fig.
1 ) . In the early first millennium AD, the
South China Sea became an arena for
intensive international trade systems that
involved China and Southeast Asian socie­
ties. At least one Philippine society, which
was known to the Chinese as Ma-i, on the
island of Mindoro, participated directly in
trade with China (Fig. 1) by the late tenth
century. This was followed by increasing
numbers of Philippine chiefs actively com­
peting for access to, and control over, for­
eign trade relations. Chinese and Southeast
Asian traders sought various marine, forest
and agricultural products, textiles, and
mineral resources of the archipelago, such Figure 1 Southeast Asia, showing the location of the Philippine Archipelago, selected
as beeswax, resins, woods, tortoise shell, ancient settlements and late prehistoric trade routes.


• modern town



iF an] ay
Basay BAIS "\_
Magsuhot ® Bacoe:?"

0 km 50 .n

Figure 3 Negros and adjacent islands,

showing the location of the Dumaguete­
Bacong archaeological project.

The archaeological record at Yap is sim­

ilar to that of Tanjay, farther north on the
east coast of Negros, and Cebu City on the
northeast coast of the neighbouring island

Figure 2
of Cebu (Fig. 3 ) , two other centres of late­
Two tatooed Visayans from the Philippine Islands, described by prehistoric Visayan chiefdoms, which sug­
early Spanish explorers as "painted men ". gests a fairly long history for the material
expression of the status of chiefs. The
chiefs at Yap also participated, either
outheastern Negros, the nature of the Excavations in the area of the directly or indirectly, in long-distance
former having been an issue of debate from Dumaguete chiefdom trade, as is indicated by the presence of
the beginning of Spanish colonization.1 Excavations at Yap, which is located within Asian tradewares. However, continuity in
The research focuses on the sociopolitical Dumaguete City along the banks of the the material record does not mean that
nature of late prehistoric lowland societies, Banica river and the edge of the coastal sociopolitical or economic structures were
on their political economy, and on the role plain, uncovered evidence of what is cur­ static, and further research is needed to
of gender in prestige. However, a necessary rently interpreted as the political centre of a improve understanding of the late prehis­
and significant part of the research has late prehistoric chiefdom. Three periods of toric sociopolitical dynamics of Visayan
been, and continues to be, documenting the occupation have been uncovered, dating to chiefdoms.
archaeological record ofthe area and estab­ the eleventh, twelfth to fourteenth, and fif­
lishing a regional chronology. Another teenth to sixteenth centuries AD. Parts of res­ N o km

important aim of the project is to produce idential structures were uncovered in the
an archaeologically informed critique of eleventh- and fifteenth-sixteenth-century
the reconstructions, based primarily on occupation layers, and, on the basis of their
European views, of pre-Hispanic and early size, one from each period appears to have
historic Philippine societies. been an elite residence of people of high
The fieldwork undertaken so far has status. The earliest structures are associated
included systematic survey of an area of with an extensive, thick midden deposit
c. 3 0 km2 (Fig. 4) that involved recording that contains artefacts such as beads, plain
and collecting for analysis from 72 sites and decorated earthenware sherds, and
herds of earthenware pottery and Asian iron fragments, some of which may well be
tradewares, as well as stone artefacts and prestige items - an interpretation that
other artefactual remains; test excavations accords with evidence from other late pre­
at two sites (Marino and Pis-an) ; more historic political centres. Residences were
extensive excavations at two sites (Unto also associated with areas where iron and
and Yap , described below); and an inves­ earthenware pottery was produced. Similar
tigation ofthe spatial extent of the Yap set­ artefactual remains are found in the later
tlement by means of a series of boreholes periods of occupation, with the addition of
(using a hand auger) to ascertain the spatial glazed Asian tradewares and foreign earth­ Figure 4 The Dumaguete-Bacong archae­
extent of the Yap settlement. enwares; and pottery and iron production ological survey area and the location of
continued. excavation sites.


Excavations at the Unto site (c. 3 km west Ayutthia (AD 1 3 5 0-1 767; Fig. 1 ) . The latter prehistoric chiefs do not appear t o have
of Yap) uncovered evidence of three peri­ have been recovered only from the chiefly used decorated earthenwares to any great
ods of occupation. The earliest period dates centre at Yap, as have the earliest glazed extent in the exchange of prestige goods
to the late first millennium BC, making Unto tradewares of the twelfth and thirteenth within the Philippine Archipelago. Instead,
one of the few sites in the archipelago with centuries. The glazed tradewares continued the results of stylistic and spatial analyses
occupation radiocarbon-dated to this to be present at Yap in succeeding centu­ suggest that the distribution among chief­
period. It has yielded remains of a residen­ ries, but they also appear at 12 other sites in dams of similarly decorated wares relates to
tial structure associated with plain and the region between the fourteenth and the their role in symbolizing chiefly alliances,
decorated earthenware sherds (including seventeenth centuries, which implies that which would have been crucial to maintain­
several sherds with impressions of rice they were distributed from the centre of the ing both access to foreign goods and political
husks), stone artefacts and shell fragments. chiefdom at Yap. Similarly, there appears to stability.
The second period of occupation dates to have been limited distribution of local dec­
the fifteenth century AD. The remains from orated earthenwares, metal (primarily iron) Future research directions
this period cover at least 1 ha and consist of and beads, which were recovered from Yap Thus far, the project has focused on the
five structures, sherds of plain and deco­ in all periods (although beads have not been activities of one late prehistoric chiefdom in
rated earthenwares and Asian tradeware, found in the fifteenth-sixteenth century Dumaguete-Bacong. Many of the issues
stone artefacts and animal remains, and occupation). These finds are associated under investigation require further analy­
they may represent a settlement occupied with elite residences, and their apparently ses and fieldwork. For example, more
by less elite individuals within the Dum­ restricted regional distribution suggests detailed analysis of the survey data is cur­
aguete political hierarchy. The third period that the elite used them as local prestige rently being undertaken to investigate
of occupation is post-fifteenth century goods. Decorated earthenwares and iron changes in sociopolitical hierarchies, which
(probably early historic) in date, and has were also recovered from the Unto site (pri­ will also provide the context for under­
yielded remains of one structure associated marily from fifteenth and post-fifteenth­ standing economic changes and their
with earthenware sherds, fragments of century deposits), and smaller quantities of implications for political dynamics. Analy­
tobacco pipes, metal fragments , iron slag, these materials were found at less than a sis of the archaeological evidence from
stone artefacts, shell, fragments ofbone and third of the survey sites. There is evidence Magsuhot within a regional context will
teeth, and lumps of burnt clay. Further for the production of local prestige goods at similarly extend our understanding of ear­
investigation of the Unto site, particularly Yap, with ironsmithing located close to lier societies and their transformations. At
in its regional context, is expected to pro­ elite residences. This parallels archaeolog­ the same time, the available material
vide important evidence for understanding ical findings at other centres, as well as remains are being examined for evidence of
social transformations from the late first descriptions in early accounts of the control the role of gender in craft production and
millennium BC to the sixteenth century AD. of this craft specialization by chiefs. systems of prestige. Ultimately, the results
of this research, in conjunction with those
Craft goods in the Dumaguete Dumaguete's relations with other of other archaeological projects, should be
economy chiefdoms capable of providing interpretations of pre­
We are also investigating the organization External political and economic relations of Hispanic Filipino societies that challenge
and dynamics of the political economy of the Dumaguete chiefdom with other late the colonial images so deeply embedded in
late prehistoric Dumaguete society. Analy­ prehistoric societies in the region is another Western perceptions of the Philippines.
sis of early accounts suggests that Philip­ focus of the research. Although historical
pine chiefs supported themselves through accounts describe various interactions Notes
the mobilization of agricultural and other among these societies - for example, 1. A possible exception is the Laguna cop­
tribute goods, labour services provided by exchange of foreign and local goods, food per-plate inscription dated to AD 900; see
commoners, payments for the services and raw materials; elite intermarriages; A. Postma, "The Laguna copper-plate
they rendered, and maritime expeditions feasts and rituals; raiding and warfare - that inscription: a valuable Philippine docu­
ment", Bulletin of the In do-Pacific Pre­
for long-distance trade, raids and warfare. appear to have been primarily controlled or
history Association 1 1 , 160-71 , 1991.
Chiefs distributed to both elite and non­ directed by chiefs, there has been little
2. See K. Hutterer, "A balance of trade: the
elite individuals some of the local and for­ archaeological investigation of these inter­ social nature of late pre-Hispanic Philip­
eign goods acquired in such expeditions, actions. Decorated earthenware assem­ pines", First Annual Hart Collection Lec­
and they appear to have sponsored some blages from the Dumaguete-Bacong area ture delivered in April 1985 at Northern
part-time and full-time craft specialists and from 82 sites located on various nearby Illinois University, DeKalb.

ish contact (Manila: MCS Enterprises, 1975).

such as goldsmiths, ironsmiths and other islands are being analyzed to investigate 3. See F. L. Jocano, The Philippines at Span­
unspecified smiths, skilled carpenters and late prehistoric exchange between chief­
textile producers. They also had some con­ dams and the symbolism associated with 4 . See three PhD dissertations (University of
Michigan, Ann Arbor): E. A. Bacus, Polit­
trol over food and other resources valuable the chiefly elites. There are several groups
ical economy and interaction : late pre­
for exchange and trade, such as gold ore, of decorated wares, each of which displays historic polities in the central Philippine
raw cotton, rice and beeswax. However, a high degree of stylistic similarity, and they Islands, 1995; L. Junker, Long-distance
because the Spanish were primarily inter­ are distributed across several islands. Pre­ trade and the development of socio­
ested in trade with China and mainland vious researchers have suggested that this political complexity in Philippine chief­
Southeast Asia, there is little information resulted from inter-island exchange from dams of the first millennium to mid­
in their accounts on the production and single production centres. Given the second millennium AD, 1990; and
distribution of utilitarian goods within archaeological evidence for decorated M. Nishimura, Long-distance trade and
Visayan societies. earthenwares as local prestige items, their the development of complex societies in
the prehistory of the central Philippines:
Analysis of the Dumaguete-Bacong use in exchange between chiefdoms would
the Cebu central settlement case, 1992.
archaeological finds continues, with a not be unexpected. However, the results of 5. See R. Mascunana, "The Bacong artifacts
view, for example, to distinguishing preliminary technical analysis suggest that, in the Silliman Anthropology Museum
between local and foreign prestige goods in the case of Dumaguete, most of the dec­ collection: a morphological analysis of
and inferring how they were distributed. So orated earthenwares appear to have been displayed material culture", in Artifacts
far, the results suggest that chiefs controlled made locally, whereas a few non-local from the Visayan communities: a study of
the distribution of foreign goods, specifi­ wares have been found that suggest extinct and extant culture, R. V. Cadelina
cally glazed Asian tradewares and deco­ exchange relations with Tanjay, Manila and & J. G. Perez (eds), 1-200 (Dumaguete City:
rated earthenwares from the Thai state of Siquijor Island (Figs 1 and 3). Thus, late Silliman University, 1 986).