Academic journal article Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

The Development of Centralized Craft Production Systems in A.D. 500-1600 Philippine Chiefdoms

Academic journal article Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

The Development of Centralized Craft Production Systems in A.D. 500-1600 Philippine Chiefdoms

Article excerpt


Ethnohistoric sources suggest that at the time of European contact, the coastlines and interior river valleys of most of the major islands of the Philippines were dotted with politically complex, socially stratified societies, organized on the level of what cultural evolutionists refer to as "chiefdoms".(1) Recent regional-scale archaeological research in the Philippines indicates that these coastal chiefdoms have considerable time depth. Settlement hierarchies, complex mortuary patterns, and other archaeological indicators of socio-political complexity extend well into the first millennium A.D.(2) Spanish and Chinese texts refer to Philippine chiefs as the central figures in complex regional-scale economies and international-scale trade. Hereditary chiefs controlled the agricultural productivity of "commoners" through restrictive land tenure, they mobilized surplus for elite use through formalized tribute systems, and they amassed "wealth" through sponsorship of luxury good craftsmen and through participation in foreign prestige-good trade. The accumulated "material fund of power" was used competitively by chiefs to enhance their social ranking, to strengthen political alliances, and to expand their regional political authority.(3)

The ethnohistoric literature for the Philippines describes chiefly economies comparable in structure and complexity to those of other island Southeast Asian complex societies. However, most archaeological attention has focused on a single aspect of Philippine chiefly economies: the issue of long-distance trade between Philippine politics and mainland Asian states (primarily China, but also Southeast Asian polities) beginning in the tenth century or slightly earlier. Additionally, much of the archaeological work on the "porcelain trade" has focused primarily on documenting trade routes and trade commodities, rather than examining the role of foreign trade and "prestige goods" in developing indigenous political economies.(4) One important element of the pre-hispanic economy in Philippine complex societies that has received scant attention from archaeologists is the development of regional craft production systems. Archaeologists have yet to deal with the issue of how increasing specialization and centralization of internal production systems might be associated with expanding political complexity and intensified participation in foreign prestige goods trade.

In this paper, I examine the development of pottery production systems in a small-scale Philippine chiefdom which evolved in the Bais Region of Negros Oriental between about A.D. 500 and the late sixteenth century. Technological analyses, regional distribution patterns, and the intra-site spatial patterning of earthenware from Bais Region sites document the emergence of two distinct types of specialist production commonly associated with complex societies: (1) "attached specialization", involving the full-time, centralized manufacture of prestige goods for elite consumption, and (2) "independent specialization", involving the full-time, centralized manufacture of socially-unrestricted utilitarian goods. The analysis suggests that these two forms of specialist production arise out of distinct economic processes, but are inter-related through their association with chiefly participation in long-distance foreign luxury good trade. Before directly addressing the ethnohistoric and archaeological evidence for changing craft production modes in Philippine societies, we will turn to a general theoretical discussion of specialist production systems in chiefdoms and how these can be recognized archaeologically.

"Attached" Specialization and "Independent" Specialization as Production Modes in Chiefdoms

Anthropological studies of the economy of chiefdoms and state-level societies have documented the presence of distinctive types of production modes and exchange relations not present in simpler societies. …

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