Thursday, November 29, 2012

Paiwan Knives Bronze Handles and Igorot Hand Drums: Two Relict Artifacts from the Asia-Pacific Bronze Age


In 2008 in ethnology museum of Academia Sinica in Taipei (Taiwan) first time I saw knives bronze handles, which are considered one of the three cultural treasures of the Paiwan ethnic group. Two others are ancient pottery vessels and glass beads. These cultural treasures were family heirlooms of the Paiwan upper classes. At the same time the ethnography has not clear information about bead-making skill among the Paiwan or other indigenous peoples in Taiwan. The same is supposed for the knives bronze handles. Paiwan myths however suggest that their ancestors brought all these treasures with them when they settled on Taiwan. The origin of Paiwan treasures is an interesting puzzle. In this article I try to find a hypothetical answer to this question. Another interesting puzzle, which seems to be connected with the question of Paiwan knives bronze handles, is the origin of Igorot bronze drums. I saw these drums also in Taipei, but they were brought there by the Filipino foreign workers, who use them in the performances at their Sunday meetings. Igorot is the collective name of several Austronesian speaking ethnic groups from the mountainous area of Northern Luzon. Almost all Igorot groups use bronze drums in their spiritual ceremonies. Beside the Northern Luzon bronze drums until now are used in the southern Philippines. Drums types are clearly distinguished between northern and southern traditions. Northern traditions relate to music cultures in continental Southeast Asia while southern relate to the insular Southeast Asia.

To find the traces of the two studying artifacts origin it is reasonable address the Bronze Age cultures of Southeast Asia. North Vietnam was the home of a Bronze Age culture called Dong Son. The best-known artifacts created in this culture are large bronze “kettle drums”. Working with bronze was practiced in Vietnam probably from the second millennium BC and reached its technical and artistic peak around 500 BC – 100 AD. These drums became objects of trade and heirlooms. More than 200 bronze drums have been found across an area from Southern China and Vietnam to eastern Indonesia. Did the drums come to the Philippines by trade routes? Or maybe the ancestors of Igorot migrated to Northern Luzon from somewhere, where a tradition of bronze drums production was flourished? The similar questions appeared in connection to the Paiwan knives bronze handles. Paiwan language is closer related to Malayo-Polynesian group compare to other Formosan languages. This fact suggests that the Paiwan chieftains and nobles could come to Taiwan later than other Formosan peoples and probably from the South-East Asia, where they used Malayo-Polynesian lingua franca. Paiwan knives bronze handles style is very similar to those of Dong Son. Igorot hand drums are very similar to the drums of the same area. This fact suggests very high probability of the same area of origin of both artifacts, which could be dated around 2000 years ago, when ancestors of nowadays Paiwan nobles and Igorot were forced to leave their homes because of Qin Empire (221-207 BC) military activity.

Igor Sitnikov

Placing Taiwan on the Map of Titanic (‘Megalithic’) Cultures in Eurasia-Pacific Area

Keywords: worshipping of a tomb, megalithic culture, Neolithic cultural unity, Eurasia-Pacific area.

In 2008 I visited the Temple of 18 Deity Kings ((十八王公廟)) on the most northern shore of Taiwan. This temple and its symbolism became a focus of my studies on the Master’s Program and resulted with the thesis, which was named Change and Stability of Eurasian Symbols in Taiwan Popular Religion: A Case Study of the 18 Deities Cult. After analyses of the symbols in the temple foundation mythology I supposed that the 18 Deity Kings cult is a mixture of many different cults, which during the long period of its development were piled on each other and which traces went back to the periods of Paleolithic and Neolithic Eurasian cultural unity. The worshipping of a tomb and sacrificing dog in the Temple of 18 Deity Kings suggests the megalithic origin of the cult. I suppose also that there could be a megalithic construction on the temple site in the past which remained only in the form of the tomb worshipping rite. To verify this assumption the study of megalithic cultures in Taiwan is a next necessary phase in the research development. The current paper is a first step into this direction. As soon as megalithic cultures of Taiwan could not be explored in isolation this work attempts also to view the place of Taiwan megalithic sites on the wider scene of the megalithic cultures dispersal in the world.

Notwithstanding the main purpose of the study is to discover the cultural meanings and functions of megalithic constructions, since those monuments are widely distributed both in time (from Mesolithic Age - starting around 8000 B.C. - through Bronze and Iron Ages, Antiquity and Middle Ages to the present) and space (through all Eurasia, in Africa, Oceania and North America) and represented by multitude of various forms it seems the typology and classification should be the starting approach among other methods of studying the phenomenon. However, existing classifications seem to be very unclear and confusing. Even the term ‘megalith’ itself looks to be very loose one, when it is used to name not only really huge stone monuments, and the Neolithic cultures which produced and produce nowadays a variety of middle size stone objects of unknown functions (Tulan site in Taiwan and Nias culture in Indonesia are good examples) but also applied to constructions made from timber and earth. The term “megaliths” is also often applied to different types of statues made from stone monoliths, such as, for example, kurgan stelae (stone babas) and moai of Easter Island. As it is known, the term ‘megalith’ comes from the Ancient Greek words megas meaning great, and lithos meaning stone; so I would suggest to use the term ‘titanic monuments’ instead of ‘megaliths’.

Another important approach is contained in mapping the ‘titanic monuments’ sites, which could help to analyze the distribution of ‘titanic’ cultures in the world. However this approach has significant difficulties caused by phenomenon of the multitude of ‘titanic monuments’ forms distributed both by time and space dimensions. Another problem of mapping the ‘titanic monuments’ is in the fact of their high dependence from the phenomenon of cultural change. Of cause, the best way for mapping is to take into consideration all mentioned dimensions; it means typological distribution of ‘titanic monuments’ forms in space by periods of time, which will also mention the cultural function of each form of monument. The solution, probably, is to design series of dynamic maps which will show the distribution in space for each form of specific function. However to start this work it is necessary to make first the general map, where the areas of all ‘titanic monuments’ sites of any times could be reflected. The starting phase of this work is demonstrated in this work.

Igor Sitnikov

Objective Phenomena with Mythological Significance in Corpora Linguistics of Eurasia-Pacific Area


A current exploratory research intends to clarify whether images of particular objects in folklore, mythology, cults, superstitions, and decorative arts reflect corresponding objective phenomena with high level significance for important aspects of human life, such as needs in food, safety, and mobility. It is supposed that the objective phenomena with certain high level of significance for human biological and social life (such level of significance is called here as mythological significance) manifest themselves in special forms of artifacts, such as proverbs, songs, cult objects and rituals, stable symbols and motifs in folk fairy tales and mythologies, which not only describe and analyze the significant for human life objective phenomena, but also preserve an empirical knowledge about their significance and transfer it to the next generations. It is supposed that the level of mythological significance could be measured according to the level of objective phenomena representation in folkloristic and mythological corpora linguistics. To determine the set of objective phenomena with mythological significance which could be common for vast geographical area of Eurasia-Pacific cultural entity it is necessary first of all to classify the whole volume of objective phenomena, which is and used to be worthy of human attention during long period of empirical observation.

The first step to determine such volume of objective phenomena is in attempt to analyze several corpora linguistics both general to the whole geographical region from remote past to the present and also the specific ones which were created by certain ethnic groups in certain periods of their history. As a corpus linguistic which is general to the whole Eurasia-Pacific geographical region and even the whole world from remote past to the present was chosen data of the well-known American folklorist Stith Thompson. His six-volume Motif-Index of Folk-Literature is considered the international key to folkloristic data. As a sampling frame for Thompson’s data analysis was chosen the part of his work devoted to motifs connected with the idea of godsr. As a result of the sampling frame analysis was created the list included 531 items of individual mythological symbols. The list of 531 items was divided into two parts: items of objective phenomena and items of subjective phenomena.

I define items of objective phenomena as a class of objects and phenomena of objective reality which and include human biological phenomena or biofacts (such as birth, life and death, diseases and mutilations, and other objects and phenomena directly connected with human body); ecofacts (environmental factors and recourses); material artifacts (any portable and non-portable material objects modified or made by people); and adaptive nonmaterial artifacts or social artifacts (objective nonmaterial products of human activity with environmental or social adaptive function, such as technological inventions, tool-making technologies, modes of production, degree and modes of mobility, modes of social stratification, modes of exchange, etc.). In contrast to social artifacts which are objective phenomena I distinguish a special class of nonmaterial artifacts with reflective function which could be called reflective nonmaterial artifacts. Reflective nonmaterial artifacts form a class of artifacts which reflects, describes and analyzes both the objective phenomena and subjective phenomena. This type of artifacts is cognitive and accordingly depends from human cognitive function and exists in individual human minds. It means that this class of artifacts is subjective and forms the list with items of subjective phenomena. Among reflective nonmaterial artifacts I distinguish, for example, such forms as symbols, words, languages, narratives, songs, beliefs, rituals, fairy tales, mythologies, poems, jokes, paintings, scientific theories, books, movies, commercials, and so on.

After calculation the list of objective phenomena formed 78% and the list of subjective phenomena – 22% of the whole data. This result supported the initial assumption that mythological symbols are based mostly on the objective phenomena. As specific corpora linguistics created by certain ethnic groups in certain periods of their history were chosen a sampling frame from the Old Testament created by Hebrews and two other sampling frames from early Sumerian texts. As a sampling frame from the Old Testament was chosen the part of the Book of Genesis describing the well known mythological motifs of flood and the tower of Babylon (Genesis 6-11) which probably are the most archaic in the Old Testament and their origin could be traced back to the periods of 8500 and 4500 years ago accordingly. This time the calculation was based on the quantity of references for every mythological item in the text of 3340 words which included altogether 712 mythological items. This time the list of objective phenomena formed 77.5% and the list of subjective phenomena – 22.5% of the whole data. As a first sampling frame from early Sumerian texts was chosen the text from the first three clay tablets of the most complete version of Epic of Gilgamesh from the library collection of 7th-century BC Assyrian king Ashurbanipal in I.M. Dyakonov’s Russian translation published in 1960. This time the list of objective phenomena formed 93% and the list of subjective phenomena – 7% of the whole data. As a second sampling frame from early Sumerian texts the text of Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta which was published in English translation was chosen. This time the list of objective phenomena with 67.5% references remains much more significant compare to the list of the list of subjective phenomena - 32.5%.

The next step to determine the volume of objective phenomena, which used to be worthy of human attention during long period of empirical observation, is in attempt to analyze the basic vocabularies of reconstructed proto-languages of several language families in Eurasia-Pacific area. Among them could be chosen such well reconstructed proto-languages as Proto-Indo-European, Proto-Uralic, and Proto-Austronesian. Dating of Proto-Indo-European language is ranging from the 10th millennium BC in the Paleolithic Continuity Theory to the 4th millennium BC in Armenian hypothesis; the Proto-Uralic language is believed to be spoken during the period about 7th – 2nd millennia BC; and Proto-Austronesian existed, probably, from the 4th to the 3d millennia BC. The reason to analyze the proto-languages vocabularies is based on the assumption that lexemes which are preserved in the modern languages from remote past should reflect the high level significance for human life of corresponding objects and objective phenomena. As soon as recently the Austronesian speaking peoples’ common cultural patterns are in the main focus of my study, I started this new stage of research from analyses of Proto-Austronesian language vocabulary. My data source for this analysis is the Thao Reflexes of Proto-Austronesian reconstructed by Robert Blust (2003) and published in his Thao Dictionary. First of all I rearranged the list of lexemes in the Blust’s reconstruction from his alphabetic order into the order which corresponds to my own classification scheme developed in previous phase of research; and also tried to separate lexemes into groups according to the probability of their origin in different phases in terms of changes in modes of production. It was made four groups, which correspond to Paleolithic foragers’ stage, Mesolithic foragers’ stage, Neolithic horticulturalist stage and a group of lexemes, which origin is difficult to identify.

Igor Sitnikov

Case Studies of Ethnic Migrations Processes in Southeast Asia


The paper discusses two issues: (1) ethnic composition of the first ‘Chinese’ immigrants to Taiwan and (2) Yunnan province ethnic composition. My previous research of the 18 Deity Kings cult in northern Taiwan, where one of the deities is a dog, brought me recently to an assumption of the multiethnic character of the first wave of so called ‘Chinese’ immigrants to Taiwan from the mainland in 17th century. A boom of this unusual cult appeared in 1980s in the area of Hakka fishermen settlement. Fishermen were the first visitors to Taiwan shores from the nowadays China mainland during the Ming dynasty in the late 16th century. Hakka immigrants to Taiwan originate from the area of nowadays Guangdong province, where, as it supposed, they had long historical contacts with the Yao people (瑤族), who traces their ancestry to a mythical dog. In the study of the18 Deity Kings cult it was supposed that the cult is probably a mixture of local beliefs connected with dog worshipping and Hakka immigrants’ memory of the Yao myth of origin. The recent assumption suggests even the presence of several Yao people among the earliest Hakka immigrants in Taiwan. Professor Holm (2012) assumes also that dog cult in Taiwan could originate from the Hakka people contact with the She group () in mainland China which inhabits the territory of nowadays Guangdong, Hunan, Fujian, Jiangxi and Zhejiang provinces. As Professor Holm informs the ethnic group of She is related to the Yao people and share with them the same myth of origin. The current study aims to throw light upon the question of Yao and She ethnic groups’ members’ hypothetical participation in the first wave of immigration process from mainland China to Taiwan during 16th -17th centuries.

The understanding of ethnic composition of the first immigrants to Taiwan from the Chinese mainland depends from the issue of southeast and southwest China ethnic composition in 16th century and before. To reach this goal first of all should be analyzed the ethnic composition of nowadays Yunnan province of PRC. In this paper the draft classification was made according to ethnic groups’ language similarities, similarities in the ways of production and the hypothesis of their origin. Of cause all these ways of classification cannot give the real picture of ethnic composition of the region, but could bring us closer to the understanding of migration processes on the territory of nowadays Yunnan province. The classification tables are shown in the paper. The classification tables’ analysis shows that the classification on the base of language similarities doesn’t match to the classification based on the way of production, which means that language could be spread not only by migrants, but also by military power or economic interests. The way of production from another hand could be changed because of changing of environment, due to migrations. The origin hypothesis is usually based on language similarities and legends. Legends also could not be a trustful source as soon as they could be created according to political reasons and the wishes of comfortable adaptation in other ethnic environment. Anyway, the classification which was done in this paper is an attempt to the further studies in understanding the migration processes in Southeast Asia.

Igor Sitnikov

External Political Reasons for Tibeto-Burmese Speakers’ Migrations to Burma: A Case Study of the Nanzhao kingdom (737-902 AC)

Key words: Yunnan, Tibetan Empire, Tang Dynasty, political culture, social institutions

For my main research of common cultural patterns in Eurasia-Pacific unconscious cultural heritage among other readings I address works on history of different regions in this vast area. The reading brought me to the history of the cultural region which crosses the borders of contemporary Burma and Yunnan province of China. In the book of Maung Htin Aung[1] “A History of Burma” published in 1967 I found an interesting paragraph:

The third migration of Mongolians[2] affected Burma rather than the other parts of the Indo-Chinese peninsula; these were the Tibeto-Burmese, from the southeastern slopes of the Tibetan mountains. Whereas the reason for the migrations of the Malays and the Mon-khmers could be only conjectured, there is evidence that the Tibeto-Burmese migrations were for political reasons. The two kingdoms of Tibet and China were locked in bitter rivalry, and the Tibeto-Burmese were hemmed in between them. They had reached the same level of culture as the Tibetans and the Chinese of the time, but they considered their independence and social institutions to be more valuable than their material culture, and accordingly they fled from their homeland. After trekking across icy mountains and through dense forests, some of them entered Burma from the northwest and others the northern mountains to enter from the northeast.
Maung Htin Aung (1967: 2)

This historical episode could take place in the period between the beginnings of the 7th and the 10th centuries AD when there were long time conflicts between Tibetan Empire (618-842) and Tang Dynasty (618-907). The long period of military conflicts between Tang Dynasty China and Tibetan Empire started in 665 and ended with the collapse of Tibetan Empire in 842. The population in the region of nowadays Yunnan province was involved in those conflicts; the fact that resulted in emergence of strong local powers: Damengguo (大蒙國; 649-737) and Nanzhao (南詔; 737-902). These two local kingdoms were founded in the area of Erhai Lake (). The area had a unique strategic location within the upper watershed areas of the most important rivers for the mainland South-East Asia; with Yangtze () connecting the region with Southern China, Mekong with Indo-China Peninsula and Salween with Burma; in the west from those three rivers the confluence of the rising there N’Mai and Mali rivers forms downstream Irrawaddy, the main river of Burma; in the south from Erhai Lake the Red river takes its beginning and connects the region with the Northern Vietnam; and finally, starting in the east from Erhai Lake the Nanpan river is a connection with Guangdong area of Southern China. Such unique geographic location made the region a bottleneck of numerous waves of migrations from the Central Asia regions into the South-East Asia which took place both in historical and prehistoric times. A prominent linguist Robert Blust[3] suggests that the area of the southeastern slopes of the Tibetan mountains was a starting point for development and dispersal of the main South-East Asian linguistic groups: the Austroneasian (along Yangtze and, probably, Nanpan rivers to the Southern China); the Austro-Asiatic and Tai-Kadai languages (along Mekong and the Red rivers to Indochina Peninsula); and the Tibeto-Burmese (along Salween and Irrawaddy rivers to Burma).

The above mentioned paragraph from Htin Aung’s book suggests that at least one historical case of massive migrations from the southeastern slopes of the Tibetan mountains had political reasons, and so could be analyzed in the conceptual framework of political culture. The purpose of current term-paper is using the theoretical framework of political culture to verify whether the reasons for the Tibeto-Burmese speakers’ migrations to Burma were in fact political. For the testing of the above mentioned assumption the following question could be a useful instrument: what the particular political and social institutions supported the development of the Nanzhao kingdom and what was their special value compare to the political institutes of Tibetan Empire and Tang Dynasty China or whether such particular value really existed? This study could help also to understand the processes which influenced the migration activity and the phenomenon of language families’ dispersal in the South-East Asian mainland in the times which have no historical evidences.

Igor Sitnikov

[1] Dr. Htin Aung (1909 – 1978) was an important scholar of Burmese history and culture. Educated in Oxford and Cambridge, Htin Aung wrote several books on those subjects.
[2] The term Mongolians (or Mongolic) is used here to describe people of East Asian and Southeast Asian origin. Now the term is regarded as potentially offensive.
[3] Robert A. Blust (born 1940) is a prominent linguist in several areas, including historical linguistics, lexicography and ethnology.

Muslim Filipinos’ Image Transformations: From Moro Pirates’ to ‘Abu Sayyaf Terrorists’


After September 11, 2001, Islam and terrorism issues became the subjects of the main importance in arena of international affairs. Moreover, these two issues are usually combined in mass media, constructing extremely negative image of Muslims, as actual and potential terrorists. In this context the case of the Muslim Filipinos’ image transformations in USA mass media seems to be very interesting, because the Muslim Filipinos were the first Muslims with whom Americans get into close interactions and who starting from the Spanish-American War of 1898 became Americans’ significant others. In the contemporary independent Philippines Moro nationalism and Muslim terrorism became one of the most important issues. This paper argues that the phenomena of Moro nationalism and Muslim terrorism in the contemporary Philippines are products of the long process of social reality construction with different stages of its development involved several various actors: pre-Hispanic Islamized Filipino datus, Spanish colonialism, American control, the independent Philippines state, Ferdinand Marcos with his martial law, and Muslim Filipinos’ ideologists.

The research question discussing in the paper is whether Moro nationalism and Muslim terrorism in the contemporary Philippines are products of social construction of subjective reality? The social construction of reality is defined as the dialectical process, which includes interactions among individuals, society, and culture. The purpose of this study is to analyze the process of Muslim Filipinos’ social image transformations during the long period of history from pre-Hispanic times to the present, when a row of stereotypical labels were used to portray them: “pagans,” “non-Christian tribe,” “Moros,” “cultural community,” “Muslim minority,” “Muslim Filipinos,” “Filipino Muslims,” and “Moro nationalists”. This paper argues that the long process of social reality construction, which in different stages of its development involved several various actors, resulted in the phenomena of Moro nationalism and Muslim terrorism in the contemporary Philippines.

Current paper is a textual analysis (both quantitative and qualitative) of news coverage of the Muslim Filipinos’ images in the New York Times (the NYT). The reason to choose the NYT as a main source for the study is the newspaper on-line archive availability and high time limitation, which is a main obstacle to address other sources of information. The analysis shows that publications devoted to the Muslim Filipinos in the NYT increased in the periods, when the Muslim Filipinos were for the USA the significant others: in the bloody period of ‘Moro Rebellion’ (1903-1913); during the time of American colonial rule in the Philippines (1913-1941); and during two years before and a year after the declaration of the War on Terrorism (from September 11, 2001 to the present). This paper argues that, the American ethnicizing, the early independent Philippines program of national integration and Marcos’ martial law hostility resulted in the phenomena of Muslim Filipinos subjective self identity and separatism movements of the next stage of their social image construction.

Igor Sitnikov

Borneo: Variations of Cultural Homogenization

Keywords: globalization, the Bumiputera, Islamization, transmigration programs, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei.

During the period after the World War II, when globalization entered its modern faze, a row of theoretical works appeared where scholars analyze the phenomenon of globalization, review its history and represent their visions of its future trends. In the same time studying globalization researchers usually use only a global approach. No doubt it is a logical way, but it has such weak points as hyper-generalization and neglect of important details. Moreover, in the situation of the Post-Cold War reality, when globalization became a main stream of world development, the weak points of this approach even bring us to the threats of intercultural misunderstandings. It happened because after the Cold War the globalization entered the new, postmodern faze, when the phenomenon turned into the changeable mosaic of particular regional and local responds to the global challenges. It seems, the main characteristics of postmodern globalization mosaic are paradoxical numerousity and mutual vulnerability of its actors, as well as high speed changeability of those actors’ individual and group responds to particular global challenges. In such situation it seems reasonable to study the particular regional and local responds cases, which could help to see more objectively both the picture of whole mosaic and the nearest future trends of its change.

Taking into consideration all above mentioned, the target of current study is narrowed to the individual cases of the three Asia-Pacific regional actors of globalization, namely three new national states of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. In the period after World War II Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei didn’t play a significant role in the Asia-Pacific region. In the Post-Cold War period the situation changed: with collapse of Eastern bloc mutual vulnerability of all regional actors in Asia-Pacific highly increased. Such situation accordingly changed the regional and even global role of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. The case of those three nation-states is particularly interesting for comparison research in terms of their common historical and cultural background in combination with different experience of colonial dependence. Such development background caused nowadays problems of those regional actors of globalization. Their main inner problem as national states is multi-ethnicity, combined with diversity of religious beliefs. Such problem is a factor of high level inner political instability. At the same time ethnical, religious and regional conflicts within one of those states can affect others. Moreover, in nowadays situation of increased mutual vulnerability of regional and global actors, the triangular of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei interstates relations becomes a factor of high risk for regional and even global security. The situation is even more critical due obsolete political methods to keep up national stability in these countries. All three states till now hold on to ineffective policy of cultural homogenization.

In this research as a target of these states policies comparison the case of Borneo island was chosen, as soon as it gives a unique opportunity: the island territory is shared by those three nation states, and is populated by several indigenous and immigrant ethnic groups. This situation sometimes becomes a source of interethnic conflicts. For example, the Indonesian transmigration program that financed the relocation of poor landless families from Java, Madura, and Bali to Borneo resulted in violent conflict between some indigenous and immigrant groups in 1990s. Another important issue is in the fact that several of indigenous groups (Penan, Iban, Sama Bajau) live in territories separated by the states’ borders. Due to the states different political regulations the living standards of those groups also differ from each other. This paper compares efficiency of the three new nation-states policies concerning issue of interethnic relations.

Igor Sitnikov