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Chapter 2 Sources for the Study of Prehispanic Philippine Chiefdoms Almost a millennium of historical accounts of Philippine polities by literate societies with which they traded makes ethnohistorical study of these societies particularly significant in general anthropological discourse on pre-state complex society development. Chinese trade records, the accounts of early Chinese voyagers to the Philippines, and official Chinese histories make general reference to the Philippine archipelago and specific reference to Philippine maritime-trading polities by the mid–tenth century a.d. While these documents focus primarily on pragmatic issues of trade, they often include descriptions of indigenous social organization, political leadership roles and alliance networks, competitive interactions between Philippine chiefs to control trade, and numerous aspects of indigenous technology and economic organization. Beginning in the sixteenth century, Spanish and other European chroniclers provide detailed description and interpretation of the political history and political economy of various contact period Philippine polities , producing at least a dozen book-length relaciones in the sixteenth century alone. An additional source of information is ethnographic work by twentieth-century anthropologists on Philippine societies with enduring components of prehispanic chiefly political, social, economic, and ideological structures. Owing to the fragmented geography and topography of the island archipelago, many indigenous chiefdoms and Islamicized sultanates in the Philippines remained remarkably unacculturated into colonial societies well into the early twentieth century. Thus, early ethnographic accounts by anthropologists, like Fay Cooper Cole’s 1913 Wild Tribes of the Davao District , provide extremely valuable descriptions of still-functioning political hierarchies, tribute mobilization systems, elite prestige goods exchange, ideologies and ceremonialism of chieftainship, and many other aspects of traditional chiefdoms in the Philippines. Anthropologists rarely have this time depth in ethnohistorical reconstructions of pre-state societies lacking indigenous histories. Thus, in the Philippines, unlike many areas of the world with brief time spans for ethnohistorical analysis, ethnographic and historical records offer the long-term evolutionary dynamism necessary to contribute meaningfully to anthropological discussions of how and why complex societies develop and transform. Archaeological research in the Philippines has allowed us to extend this evolutionary sequence of complex society development at least as far back as the first millennium b.c. Three periods of cultural development defined 30 Introduction by archaeologists working over the last century are relevant to this process of political centralization in the Philippines: (1) the Metal Age (ca. 500 b.c. to a.d. 1000); (2) the Early Porcelain Period (ca. a.d. 1000–1400, including Sung, Yüan, and early Ming trade phases); and (3) the Late Porcelain Period (ca. a.d. 1400–1600, including the late Ming trade phase).1 Most archaeological investigations of these periods have focused on cultural historical analyses of burial sites. Archaeological analysis often emphasizes technical studies of the elaborate earthenware vessels, bronze implements, shell ornaments, and other status goods recovered from these burials, to which were added spectacular foreign porcelains and gold ornaments after the advent of extra-archipelago trade. Only recently have archaeologists begun to examine mortuary patterning in terms of sociopolitical structures, to look at aspects of social, economic, and political organization through excavations of habitation sites, and to document regional-scale cultural transformations through systematic settlement pattern studies. Since both ethnohistorical and archaeological analysis of prehispanic Philippine chiefdoms have been extremely limited and even more rarely integrated through anthropological theory, most readers are likely to be unfamiliar with the available historical, ethnographic, and archaeological sources. In addition, knowledge of the particular historical context of a written account is significant in assessing ethnohistorical reconstructions of past societies. Therefore, I devote this chapter to a brief review of the main sources used in the present study as well as additional sources that may be of interest to ethnohistorians and archaeologists pursuing similar analysis. Historical Sources Both Chinese and Spanish writings are colored by specific historical and cultural contexts as well as by individual political, economic, and ideological agendas of the Chinese historians, trade administrators, and merchants, and the Spanish soldiers, bureaucrats, and priests who composed these works. However, this multiplicity of sources is advantageous in ethnohistorical analysis , since fundamental aspects of Philippine culture and sociopolitical organization can be extracted by comparing core elements of accounts with widely differing cultural and historical biases. Before delving directly into these foreign sources describing indigenous Philippine societies, I will first describe the evidence for native writing systems in the Philippines and their potential for providing an emic reading of Philippine society and culture. Native Philippine Written Texts An isolated discovery of an inscription on...


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