Complexities in the origins of pottery in the Marianas: A comparison of pottery assemblages from the Northern Philippines and the Mariana Islands

Mary Clare Swete-Kelly, Olaf Winter

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    This paper compares quantitative and qualitative results from selected pottery assemblages in sites in the northern Philippines with those from sites in the Mariana Islands. Pottery appears in this region sometime between 4000 and 3000 years ago, with the pottery of the Marianas Islands being towards the younger end of this age range. Arguments concerning the origins of the first pottery in the Marianas have been dominated to date by the correlation of selected decorative and stylistic attributes of the Marianas pottery with that of pottery found in sites in Island Southeast Asia (ISEA). The similarities and differences in the pottery at the assemblage levels, however, have never been fully articulated. Recent arguments regarding the pottery have been specifically focused on perceived parallels between the early Marianas Red pottery and the early pottery of the Cagayan Valley in the northern Philippines. Although it has not been explicitly suggested that the northern Philippines was the immediate departure point for migrant boats, it has nevertheless been argued that there are more parallels between the pottery assemblages of these two regions than any others. This has even been a contributing factor in recent revisions to the Out of Taiwan model, which concerns the migration and dispersal of Austronesian language speakers. The results presented herein, however, show that there are distinct differences in the pottery technologies of the two regions that would not be expected if the sites are directly related. Consequently, there is no clear evidence that the pottery assemblages of the northern Philippines are ancestral to those of the Marianas. While both the early Marianas Red pottery and the northern Philippines pottery assemblages originate in a red-type pottery horizon that exists in both ISEA and the Marianas, the data to date suggests only a loose affinity between the assemblages, there being a high degree of variation in the constituent pottery characteristics between regions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)243-262
    JournalQuaternary International
    Publication statusPublished - 2022


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