- Raiding, Trading, Feasting: The Political Economy of Philippine Chiefdoms
Laura Junker has provided us with a most comprehensive overview of the emergence of complex sociopolitical systems in the prehistoric and ethnohistoric Philippines. [End Page 190] Beyond that, she puts these polities into comparative perspective by looking at similar developments elsewhere in South-east Asia. Her focus is on the emergence of complex systems increasingly engaged in long-distance maritime trade with China and other Asian states along the coasts of a number of the Philippine islands.
The book, a substantial revision of her 1990 doctoral dissertation at the University of Michigan, offers the most comprehensive examination of late Filipino prehistory and earliest history, drawing on an exhaustive examination of written documents. In addition, she uses extensive information from archaeological fieldwork, including her own extensive excavations in Negros Oriental in the Visayan region. She concludes that it is the participation in luxury good trade, especially for Chinese porcelain ceramics, in tandem with other developments in the political economy of the region that stimulates the emergence of complex polities in the prehistoric Philippines.
The book is divided into four parts. The first part reviews the general theory of the relationship between long-distance trade and the development of complex polities. She also reviews the nature of the historical and archaeological sources for exploring such developments in Southeast Asia. The second part examines the general theoretical background for the development of ranking and stratification of complex polities that are clearly present in the Philippines by the period of initial Spanish contact in the mid sixteenth century.
The third part focuses on the importance of foreign trade and the social changes that ensue during the period from about 1000 B.C. until the time of Spanish contact nearly three millennia later. She presents a model of polities emerging in coastal locations on rivers, with smaller settlements upstream. A complex arrangement of exchange between the lowland, coastal villages, and communities farther upstream in the more upland regions brought forest products and other resources down in exchange for prestige goods or even as tribute.
The development of craft specialization is also explored in the third part. She explores the link between increasing sociopolitical complexity and the rise of specialized modes of craft production. In very complex systems, attached specialists often work for political elites and are relatively easy to spot archaeologically. But in less complex systems, the beginnings of fulltime crafts specialization are often more difficult to identify in the archaeological record. She draws on recent ethnoarchaeological work that suggests that increasing standardization of the product corresponds with the beginnings of craft specialization.
The development and maintenance of alliances among political elites through the exchange of high-status goods is reviewed using ethnohistoric and archaeological examples. She notes an increase in such complex systems in the first millennium of the Christian era and suggests that this resulted in increased demand for Chinese ceramics and other valuable trade goods at that time. She also documents the appearance of competitive feasting during this period as leaders vied for more followers to accrue more power. She details the evidence, both historic and archaeological, for an increase in warfare and raiding at that time. Among the important booty taken in the raids were slaves for work and for sacrifice.
The fourth part consists of one relatively short chapter summarizing this extraordinary presentation of fact and theory. It is without question the most substantial excursion into the historic and prehistoric records for Southeastern Asia generally and the Philippines in particular that I have seen. As such, it is an extremely useful compendium that will be of interest and help to historians, anthropologists, and archaeologists for some time to come.
Of course in a work of such breadth and scope with such rich scholarship, there will be specialists who will find fault with details from their specialized areas of study. I cannot resist being among the first to present an example of this...