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Chapter 6 The Dynamics of Social Ranking: Changing Patterns of Household Wealth and Mortuary Differentiation Spanish documents and early ethnographic accounts synthesized in the preceding chapter suggest that a highly developed system of social stratification existed in many lowland Philippine societies at the time of European contact. However, social ranks in Philippine chiefdoms, like political leadership roles, were traditionally fluid and dynamically created in constant interplay between genealogical manipulation and status competition through feasting, strategic marriages, raiding, and trading. Changes in the ways in which wealth was created and manipulated—greater reliance on foreign prestige goods trade, transformations in local prestige goods production systems, expanding circulation of goods in competitive feasting—undoubtedly contributed to evolving status hierarchies. Thus, social organization in sixteenth-century Philippine societies represents a historical endpoint in what were likely dynamic social systems of growing complexity. Unfortunately, pre-sixteenth-century Chinese descriptions of social organization in Philippine chiefdoms are almost nonexistent, giving little ethnohistorical time depth with which to examine long-term processes of social evolution. Therefore, in this chapter, archaeological evidence is brought to bear on the evolutionary dynamics of Philippine social hierarchies, focusing on burial and settlement remains dated from the two millennia preceding European contact. While a relatively large number of burial sites of this period have been excavated, mortuary analyses are limited by problems of unsystematic sampling of burial populations and a lack of sufficient data on socially meaningful associations in burial programs. Therefore, many arguments for changing social hierarchies are necessarily based on qualitative observations of burial patterns rather than on quantitative analysis. In addition, since large-scale excavations of prehispanic Philippine settlements of any period are extremely rare, interpretations of growing household status and wealth differentials must be based on archaeological work at just a few sites. Status-related dietary differences between households have recently been studied through zooarchaeological and paleoethnobotanical analyses at Philippine sites (Gunn 1997; Junker, Mudar, and Schwaller 1994; Junker, Gunn, and Santos 1996; Mudar 1997). However, since the archaeological record of differential access to food resources in Philippine stratified societies reflects not only daily household consumption patterns but also differential participation in the competitive feasting system, I will reserve discussion of these dietary differences to Chapter 11. Dynamics of Social Ranking 145 The available settlement and burial evidence is consistent in recording increasing social status and wealth differentiation over time during the roughly two thousand years of complex society formation in the Philippines. Simple, dichotomous status hierarchies characterizing the early first millennium a.d. incipient Philippine chiefdoms are replaced by multitiered status hierarchies, manifested in complex gradations of wealth in households and burials (derived from both indigenous luxury good production and foreign trade) by the mid–second millennium a.d. Increasing status differences in household wealth, mortuary treatment, and dietary choices in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries coincide with the emergence of a number of politically complex and territorially expansive polities in the Philippines. In this and subsequent chapters, I will examine how these new sources of prestige goods become incorporated into indigenous systems of wealth manipulation and status display. Material Manifestations of Social Ranking: The Ethnohistorical Evidence Historical sources suggest that variation in social rank was materially reflected in the size and architectural complexity of domestic structures. Chinese and Spanish records note that large riverbank and coastal chiefly centers traditionally consisted of fifty or more wooden pile-houses arranged around one or more chiefly residences. The chiefs’ houses were multiroomed, raised on high pilings above the surrounding single-roomed commoner structures, frequently stockaded, and liberally furnished with both locally produced and foreign prestige goods—imported Chinese, Annamese, and Siamese porcelains; gold serving dishes and ornaments; metal gongs, bells, and drums; gold-ornamented spears and other weaponry; elaborately carved wooden boxes and tables; and exotic textiles (Relation of the Voyage to Luzon 1570:102–103; Bobadilla 1640:337; Chao Ju-kua (1225), in Scott 1984:68–70; Dampier 1697:225; Pigafetta 1521c:49–50, 58–59). The accumulation and household display of heirloom wealth, known as “bahandi” in a number of Visayan languages (Scott 1994:129), was essential to a datu’s continued political authority and social standing, since it was the major symbol of rank and power. The hostile encounter between members of the Legaspi expedition and Manila’s Rajah Suleyman ended in the burning of the latter’s house compound . However, the Spanish chroniclers published eyewitness accounts of the “prewar” splendor of the paramount chief’s dwelling: Those who saw [chief] Suleyman’s house before...


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