Beads on Boats: Testing the Relation of Expected Cargo to Philippine Maritime Activities

Dublin Core


Beads on Boats: Testing the Relation of Expected Cargo to Philippine Maritime Activities


Session 4

The archaeological study of ships’ cargo, hull, and maritime infrastructure.


What must be considered in an attempt to critically analyse beads? Multiple historic period shipwrecks ranging in dates from the 11th century to the 18th century have been archaeologically excavated from Philippine waters. Past studies have either placed these shipwrecks in the larger network of shipping activities or singled-out one particular ship’s function.

In this doctoral developing study the context of shipping activities in the wider Philippine-oriented community was identified through style-types previously established in studies in Terrestrial Archaeology, Coastal Landscape and Historic Records; the core of which was revealed to be the material culture of navigation. Maritime Archaeology methodology was used to approach the tools and symbols used in pilotage by the four main cultural groups to have settled in the Philippines – Austronesian, Arab, Chinese and Spanish. This revealed that pilots may have shared a common language in mathematics. With this potential explanation for communication across the groups the research turned to the shipwreck collections to find a shared commodity, ubiquitously expected – BEADS. The hypothesis that particular beads, representative of specific cultural groups pointed to a probability of beads on all the shipwrecks. This is to be tested by objectively recording the beads in a database. It is expected the end result of which will point to the identification of the bead style, manufacture and provenance which in turn will then be used as indicators to strengthen known stylistic features and shipping activities associated with the cultural groups. Preliminary results indicate this is not the case. The 16th century shipwrecks contain very few to no beads. This critical analysis will continue into the other Periods represented by shipwreck assemblages in the Museum’s collections. Could this study be a direct challenge to preconceived ideas of past Southeast Asian economic models?


Jennifer Craig


The Inaugural Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on Underwater Cultural Heritage

Electronic Publication by The Museum of Underwater Archaeology


November 2011



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