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Examining changes in the organisation of earthenware production in a prehispanic Philippine polity using laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry

Lisa C. Niziolek

Abstract

Although significant historical research has been done on traditional Southeast Asian kingdoms and chiefdoms, little archaeological work has been undertaken on changes in the economic systems of pre-colonial maritime societies in Asia, especially on the role of specialised craft production in the development of pre-modern complex societies. This project examines changes in the organisation of earthenware production in the prehispanic coastal polity of Tanjay in the Philippines (A.D. 500-1600). More than 250 earthenware pieces from six archaeological sites from the Tanjay region were analysed using laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) at Chicago’s Field Museum. Ceramic samples were drawn from two residential zones in central Tanjay, an elite neighborhood and a non-elite area; two secondary settlements located several kilometers upriver; an upland, swidden farming site; and a contemporaneous, and likely competing, coastal polity 40 km down the coast from Tanjay. Initially, it was expected that changes in the pattern of earthenware production in the Tanjay region would favour one scenario or the other – either continued production at dispersed, local sites or increased specialised and centralised production. So far, however, the preliminary ceramic compositional evidence indicates that both scenarios seem to have been taking place during the centuries prior to Spanish contact. Ceramic production appears to have continued on a local level, with potters from each site making pottery to be used by nearby inhabitants, but there also is evidence that sites, such as the elite Tanjay neighborhood, began to make ceramics expressly for local consumption by elites and for foreign trade.

Keywords

Philippines, compositional analysis, pottery, craft production, specialisation

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Submitted: 2013-11-28 11:05:25
Published: 2013-12-30 17:04:05
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