A New wave of changes took place in the Philippines at about A.D. 1000 marked by the appearance in archeological site of high- fired ceramics. This gave proof of the increased marine trade with the mainland of Asia and the land farther west. Philippine cultures reeled against the impact and suffered first from the social collisions, but eventually recovering to benefit from the changes introduced by the contacts with the great traditions of Asia.
The first evidence of high-fired ceramics came from the municipality of Laurel, Batangas in the form of the base and portion of the side of a stoneware jar. The jar was color glazed with green, yellow, and reddish purple. The latter glaze was identified to be from manganese, a glaze used during this period in the kilns of Fayum, Egypt. The piece was dated at about the latter half of the 10th century. This sherd is the earliest proof of the Arab trade that reached out east to the Philippines. It is noteworthy that stoneware ascribed to the 5 dynasties period in China (A.D. 907-960) also begun to be found in many archeological sites in the country, principally in northeastern Mindanao about Butuan City, and Batangas. In Butuan City a jarlet made of many-colored glaze was dug up. The jarlet was Arabic in origin. From the same area, a piece of blue-green jar fragment was also recovered and identified as Persian in origin. Piecesthought to belong to the Tang dynasty (A.D. 618-906) have also been found by illegal diggers in these areas, and in the northern tip of Luzon. The recovery of sherds from the Laguna de Bay area has also been reported although no systematic excavations made there yielded any Tang dynasty materials. The finds from the different sites suggest that Chinese and Middle Eastern ceramics seemed to have arrived in the Philippines at about the same period. The latter were fewer in number. The noteworthy thing is that the Middle Eastern ceramics were found only in areas where there were Chinese tradeware so that it would seem that these ceramics came as a consequence of trade with the Five Dynasties of China at about A.D. 1000.
In all likelihood, the overseas trade used parts of the existing independent local trade networks with regards to the early contacts with China. The reason for this is that the early trade ceramics found in the Philippines were very limited in distribution, and did not scatter and penetrate other trade networks. The Yueh-type wares as stated above were found only about northeastern Mindanao with some penetration to the north, and on the western side of the province of Batangas, which were very localized distributions. Scott, 1984, noted that with respect to the trade carried on in northeastern Mindanao, the traders were local merchants from the western side of the island. It is noteworthy to point out that the Tausug language and the Butuanon are closely related. It appears that the Tausug moved to the western side of the islands at about A.D. 1100 from the general area of northeastern Mindanao due to the demands of commerce. The distribution of Yueh-type wares in the Batangas area was also very limited and concentrated about the area of access into the Taal lake region where large concentrations of populations probably were during that time. There is no evidence yet to show what drew the early trade from China into these particular areas and not to others. The likelihood is that there were large communities – and as a result large markets – in these places, with established trading relations. Later marine archeological studies have shown that overseas trade was carried on with particular ports, and from these are connections to other independent local networks. The local trade network was carried on by native merchants getting their goods from entrepots, at times for specific customers filling orders as it were.
The few Tang dynasty pieces that arrived in the Philippines were represented by what have been called Changsa wares from the place where these were made. These include spouted jars with paneled decorations and flanges on the shoulder, with a greyish glaze; tall bottles with two ears on the shoulder and another two directly below these at the base. There were many bowls that have glaze and characterized by very wide and low foot rims or bases. These, however, have not appeared in systematically excavated sites.
Much more impressive in numbers were the Yueh-type wares, that have been dated to the Five Dynasties about the 10th to 11th centuries. The so-called Yueh wares were the precursors of high fired ceramics that started with the discovery of the kind of clay called, kaolin, which can be fired to about 1300 degrees centigrade to produce vitreous wares; and the development of the cross-draft kiln that can produce this kind of high temperature. During the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618-906) changes took place in China that affected the whole of Southeast Asia when Chang-an, the capital, became one of the centers of international trade. Traders from all over the world came to know of the high quality of the high fired ceramics produced in China and realized the trade potentials of these. Chinese ceramics begun to be traded widely since these were found to be superior to those produced in other lands. The initial impact of this trade begun to be felt in the Philippine archipelago at about A.D. 1000, when Yueh-type wares were brought in into the Butuan City and Laurel, Batangas.
These early trade ware usually had a single greyish color. The body of the wares were of two kinds: one that has a color range from buff, low-fired, chalky, soft and powdery. The designs were impressed with some probably incised. The lips of the vessels have incised vertical lines. The vessels appeared to have been glazed with a color that range from olive, light buff to reddish brown. The second group were truly high-fired and vitreous. The body wall colors range from whitish, buff, light grey to light brownish orange. The designs were generally incised lines with a predominantly lotus motif. Combed lines were very common, as well as fluted petals, and panels of incised floral curvilinear designs. The handles and loop ears of the vessels were often given single or double vertical lines. One of the most characteristic of the vessels is a bowl with a thick folded over lip with a one-color grey glaze.
In the Butuan area, the trade ceramics were with local earthenware, bone, iron, bronze, antler, netweights, wood, and large amounts of shells. Distinctive non-porcelaneous wares from southern Thailand and Vietnam were also excavated along with the Chinese wares. The local earthenware were not at all notably embellished. On the other hand, in the Laurel, Batangas site where similar Chinese tradeware were recovered, the local earthenware were of different variety. The beauty of decoration and the many kinds of forms still reflect the character of the pottery of the preceding age. The vessels were provided with red slip and were highly polished. The decorations included some unique pieces decorated with appliqued spines or studs. Incised and impressed designs were widely used in both geometric and curvilinear styles. Towards the end of the Metal Age pottery of the areas about Batangas were among the more beautiful of Philippine earthenware.
Younger in archeological age to the sites in Butuan and Batangas are those found within the city of Manila itself, and the areas about the Laguna de Bay in the province of Rizal and Laguna. Excavations within the vicinities of the Sta. Ana parish church in Manila were done by the National Museum after previous work by others. The site was actually a mound built up by the piling of refuse during periods when people lived there. The pile of garbage was about 3.27 meters deep down to the ground water level. The first top layer which was less than one meter thick could be dated to the Spanish period back to about the 16th century. Under this layer were deposits of brackish water shells, animal bones, pottery sherds, iron slags and fragments of local pottery. The deepest layer of the excavations has been dated to A.D. 1095. The most significant date that came out of this archeological site is placed at A.D. 1175 which gives the age of an association of materials that included blue and white trade ceramics – the earliest date in the Philippines for the appearance of blue under the glaze in Chinese tradeware.
The locally made earthenware recovered here is part of a potting practice that is widespread in the provinces of Rizal, Laguna and Batangas, that developed on to the later periods. Already, the influence of Chinese ceramic forms is evident in the local earthenware shapes. Apart from the vessels usually found like globular pots, jugs, jars, and so on, the most noteworthy form that was characteristic of this period was a rather squat pouring vessel with one spout, a lug on the opposite side of this, and a flange on the widest diameter of the body to reinforce the joint of the upper and lower halves. Later types become sphere-like in form.
A major archeological work on a succeeding period after the Sta. Ana excavations was that done in Calatagan, Batangas. Twenty nine sites were recorded here, eleven of which were fully worked. These burial sites yielded more than 1500 graves that belong to the same assemblage dating to A.D. 1400 to 1500. The sites contained ceramics from the kilns of south China, along with high-fired ceramics from Thailand and Vietnam and local earthenware. About 17 percent of the recoveries of ceramics from this site were Thai, most of which were jarlets. The pieces from Vietnam were lesser in number. Both the Thai and Vietnamese trade ware begun to become rare in Philippine archeological sites by A.D. 1600.
The earthenware from these excavations were very distinctive. These were ordinarily provided with a red slip and were well polished. The bottoms of the globular pots were often pushed in to make them more stable when placed down. Another unique form is the squash shape given to many vessels. Another character of this pottery complex is the use of burnishing lines for decorative purposes. Although not as exhuberant as the pottery of the preceding age, the pieces in Calatagan were also decorated with incised, and impressed designs. Similar practices in pot-making seemed to have spread even to the island of Mindoro. Even by this time the effect of the large numbers of tradeware that flooded the communities had on the local earthenware was being felt. There is a greater prestige and demand for the high-fired ceramics such that these were slowly replacing earthenware in many daily use and more specially in the rituals. The beautiful pottery of the Metal Age is no longer evident.
The effect of Asian tradeware on local pottery was very marked in the materials that emerged from the Balingasay site in Bolinao, Pangasinan. The high-fired ceramics recovered here were mostly dated to the 13th to the 15th centuries, and were associated with local pottery, gold ornaments, bronze and iron artifacts. There were 24 earthenware pieces excavated, and not one was a globular pot which was common in all other sites. All the pieces of pottery were in forms copied from Asian ceramics and appeared to have been made to replace these highly valued pieces. The vessels came as bowls with ring feet, two eared jarlets, footed dishes, plates and burial jars. Of note is that among the tradeware recovered not one was a blue and white piece. More interesting were the gold pieces found in the graves. Apart from the gold cog-toothed beads, combs and wires, there were gold dental places. Most startling of all were the gold fish scale-like plates and peggings embedded into the enamel of the frontal teeth of the dead.
From this time on the number of archeological sites dating to later periods are far too many to enumerate with even brief descriptions. Many more are the sites accidentally or illegally excavated that remain unrecorded. The presence of Asian tradeware specially those of the Chinese show the intensity of the overseas trade and the complex market networks that criss-crossed the islands, through water and land. Although the kinds of goods that went through these networks have been shown by those recovered from land sites, it was only recently that trade goods were recovered from under the sea with the growing knowledge and capability in the field of marine archeology.
Although a number of shipwrecks have been reported since the early 1960’s, the first systematic marine archeological project was only successfully completed in 1980. This was done off the island of Marinduque towards Gaspar islet. Here the practically intant cargo of a trading ship was found at a depth of about 40 meters. Through an unknown calamity the ship sunk with a cargo of porcelain dishes with blue under the glaze, saucers, bowls jarlets, powder boxes, spice containers, stoneware jars and jarlets; and some one-color wares. There were also iron skillets, earthenware stoves, ballast stones and some wooden objects. There was one copper ring with a red coral setting. The assemblage could be dated through the ceramics as between A.D. 1500 and 1600, and was probably coming from the Chinese port of Swatow to trade in central Philippines when it sunk before it could unload its cargo. Unfortunately, no trace of the ship itself was found.
Another important shipwreck was found off the town of Puerto Galera in the island of Mindoro at a depth of about 20 meters. A similar assemblage of materials was found here as those found in Marinduque, and apparently again from the port of Swatow. Stoneware jars; blue and white porcelain plates, dishes, jarlets and a jar; and a Thai kalong jar, the usual ballast stones and others were recovered. The most important items to be retrieved from under the sea in this site were pieces of the ship timber. These were parts of the hull that showed that the planks were joined edge to edge by means of pegs and lashed together through the raised lugs on the inner sides of the planks. This type of ship architecture was typical of that prevalent in Southeast Asia before the advent of western ship types. In fact this boat was built in a way similar to that boat excavated in Butuan dating to A.D. 320, except that it was smaller. There were indications that the boat sunk due to some fire on board that left carbon deposits on the stoneware and porcelain later retrieved from the sea. The nature and disposition of the cargo suggested that the items were obtained for distribution to specific owners as in retail trade within a network that included patron-client relationships. Puerto Galera it seemed was an important port of call by Chinese traders who indulged in wholesale trade or consignments with the local retail trade handled by local merchants for servicing other islands and interiors.
There are numerous reports of sunken trade vessels off the southern coast of the archipelago that indicate the routes used by the marine merchants. One that is often used going south follows the coast of Palawan. The Royal Captain shoals off the southern end of the islands, named after an English ship wrecked there, have yielded cargoes of Swatow ceramics, glass beads, iron skillets, stoneware and others, from other ships that sunk there. Remains of later shipping including galleons have been reported that evidenced the expansion of Asian trade into the American continent during the 17th century. Suspected galleon wrecks have been pinpointed in the Verde Islands and the Lubang island off the western coast of Batangas province. The galleon San Diego constructed in Cebu and later sank off Fortune Island near Batangas during a battle with the Dutch in 1600, for instance was excavated with a large amount of its contents recovered – a virtual time capsule. The Spanish introduced new elements in trade which likewise was reflected in the emergence of new sea routes apart from the existing ones and the number increased as other nations specially from the West entered the circle of modern trade in Asia.