The Chronology of Mollusc Shell Artifact Production in the Philippines
Recent regional interpretations on human adaptations based on shell artifacts, lithic materials, and osseous technologies have revealed technological innovations attributed to changing environments, and the emergence of ancient social networks and new ideologies. While it is true that the topic merits more attention, a synthesis of shell manufacturing technologies, from tools to ornaments, as exhibited in the Philippines, has yet to be completed and should not be integrated into regional contexts without initial exhaustive analysis.
This study presents the general chronology of mollusc shell manufacturing technologies by examining manufacturing sequences, status, features of the raw material, and the varied shell species used from the Palaeolithic to the Metal Age of Palawan, Philippines. By incorporating current analysis of Ille Site shell assemblages, including new radiocarbon AMS dates of worked shell artifacts, into regional analyses, the transition from simple to complex shell manufacturing technologies is clearly evident from flake technology into ornament production.
Through a focus on detailed understanding of shell working, the idea of transfer-ability of technological knowledge across different media, e.g. bone to shell, is refuted. Further, there is still very little evidence suggesting that there were connections with shell manufacturing from outside of the Philippines. Instead, the evidence strongly suggests a strictly local innovation by ancient Philippine communities responding to different external stimuli from changing environments to introduction of foreign trade goods and ideas.