Asian Perspectives, vol. 52, no. 1 (2013)

Special Topic Articles: New Research on Old Museum Collections


New Research on an Old Collection: Studies of the Philippine Expedition (“Guthe”) Collection of the Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan
Carla M. Sinopoli, 1

This article introduces recent studies on an important collection of Southeast Asian archaeological materials curated by the Asian Division of the University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology. The Philippine Expedition or Guthe Collection derives from archaeological research conducted at more than 500 sites in the southern and central Philippines in the early part of the last century—from 1922 to 1925. The collection consists of some 13,000 objects from some of the earliest systematic archaeological research in Southeast Asia. For more than 80 years, scholars from the Philippines, China, Japan, Europe, and North America have visited the collection to study the materials and ask new questions about the Southeast Asian past. The articles here continue this trajectory by presenting recent research on early modern trade in blue-on-white porcelains; technological style and the classification of large stoneware dragon jars; the cultural context of cranial deformation; and a sourcing study of indigenous earthenware ceramics using instrumental neutron activation. In this article, I provide some background on the Philippine Expedition and the remarkable museum collection that it generated, as well as some of this research, which continues to mine new knowledge from this nearly century-old museum collection.
Keywords: Philippines, colonial archaeology, museum collections, Carl Guthe, Chinese porcelain, dragon jars, earthenware, cranial deformation, colonialism

Investigations into the Elemental Composition of Earthenware Vessels from the Guthe Collection using Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis
Alice Yao, 12

This study undertakes an elemental compositional analysis of Philippine earthenware vessels from the Guthe collection using Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis (INAA). Unlike foreign trade ceramics, earthenware vessels were locally produced goods but which also played a part in the development of Philippine chiefdoms as an item traded between inland and coastal groups. Thus, the detection of compositional groups within earthenware vessels may help identify patterns of production and exchange. It is also hoped that the results from this pilot study can contribute to the future development of an elemental database for earthenware vessels.
Keywords: Philippines, earthenware, exchange, Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis

The Distribution and Cultural Context of Artificial Cranial Modification in the Central and Southern Philippines
Jamie L. Clark, 28

Given its regional scope and good provenience information, the Guthe Collection offers a rare opportunity to examine both the spatial distribution and the cultural context of artificial cranial modification (ACM) in the archaeological record of the central and southern Philippines. A combination of visual classification and discriminant function analysis was used to classify the cranial sample into modified and unmodified groups. Following this, the relative frequency of each class of crania by island was explored. The results show that 95 percent of the artificially modified crania in this sample were recovered from the Visayan group, and most of these were found on the islands of Samar and Tablas. Not only did these two islands have the greatest percentage of modified crania (among islands with a sample size greater than one), they were also the only islands from which crania of ambiguous modification status were recovered. On the basis of these results, it would appear that the practice of ACM may have been more common among historic populations on Samar and Tablas than on other islands in the study region. Statistical tests were then conducted in order to explore the hypothesis that cranial modification was an elite practice. The available evidence suggests that the practice of ACM in the central and southern Philippines was not limited to members of the social elite.
Keywords: cranial modification, cranial deformation, Philippines, burials

Fragments of Globalization: Archaeological Porcelain and the Early Colonial Dynamics in the Philippines
Li Min, 43

Archaeology provides a powerful lens for revealing the complex social processes and profound consequences of global encounters. This study of archaeological ceramics from the southern Philippines investigates patterns of quality, source variation, and spatial distribution for Chinese trade porcelain dating before and after Spanish colonization. It aims at placing archaeological research on ceramics trade into the broader context of trans-Pacific trade between East Asia and Spanish America, as well as the historical circumstances for the production, distribution, and consumption of commodities involved in the global exchange. The patterns documented reveal continuity and transformation of the Asiatic trade network and the diverse responses to the colonial condition by native communities. The ceramic trade and indigenous political development were juxtaposed with the global competition of empires and changing economic dynamics.
Keywords: early modern trade, porcelain, chiefly society, Philippines, Manila Galleon, Zhangzhou ceramics

Temporal Variability in Southeast Asian Dragon Jars: A Case from the Philippines
Stephen Dueppen, 75

This article presents the results of a detailed analysis of four dragon jar groups found in the Guthe Collection at the University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology. Dragon jars are a class of decorated stoneware storage vessels that were employed in trade throughout Southeast Asia during the second millennium a.d . The jars in this study, recovered from mortuary contexts, are a unique data set due to their wide deposition throughout the southern Philippines. An exploration of intra-group and inter-group patterning has revealed temporal patterns and likely production locales for dragon jar manufacture over the course of the twelfth to seventeenth centuries. These temporal and spatial trends are then applied to the Guthe Collection to examine jar distribution throughout the Philippines over the critical period spanning the emergence of large-scale international commerce in the region. This study contributes a well-defined chronology for a commonly found material class, as well as knowledge of regional trading patterns.
Keywords: Southeast Asia, ceramic classification, dragon jars, trade


Survey, Excavation, and Geophysics at Songjiaheba—A Small Bronze Age Site in the Chengdu Plain
Rowan Flad, Timothy J. Horsley, Jade D’Alpoim Guedes, He Kunyu, Gwen Bennett, Pochan Chen, Li Shuicheng and Jiang Zhanghua, 119

Archaeological survey in the Chengdu Plain of Sichuan Province has revealed settlement patterns surrounding Late Neolithic walled sites, including large numbers of small settlements from the Neolithic, Bronze Age, and Han Dynasty eras. Here geophysical survey and excavation at one of these small-scale sites dating to the Middle Bronze Age are reported, showing for the first time the value of high-resolution geophysics for evaluating site size and integrity in the Chengdu region.
Keywords: Chengdu Plain, Sichuan, Sanxingdui, Shi’erqiao, geophysics, magnetometry, archaeobotany, settlement patterns

Two Clocks: A Comparison of Ceramic and Radiocarbon Dates at Macapainara, East Timor
Jack N. Fenner and David Bulbeck, 143

Radiocarbon analysis and ceramic typology assessment are commonly used to date late Holocene archaeological sites in Island Southeast Asia. We apply both methods to date the site of Macapainara in East Timor, and they produce substantially different age ranges for this site. The radiocarbon dates are consistently later in time than ceramic typology dates from the same or adjacent stratigraphic levels. We assess the various sources of error for the two dating techniques that could produce this discrepancy, and conclude that the ceramic typology age ranges are misleadingly old due to concerted curation of fine ceramics by the site occupants. We discuss the implications of this for dating sites in East Timor and elsewhere within Island Southeast Asia.
Keywords: radiocarbon dating, relative dating, ceramic typology, Macapainara, East Timor, Island Southeast Asia, ceramics in Southeast Asia


Archaeology of Asia ed. by Miriam T. Stark
Reviewed by Joshua Wright, 157