Friday, December 10, 2004

Social system and stratification

As alluded to earlier, Solheim equated the Dawenkou culture of Shandong with Nusantao who had come into contact with people already inhabiting the area. They intermarried with these people who were larger in number by far.

However, they were able to maintain features of their language which they passed on eventually to Japan via the diffusion of Yayoi culture.

Solheim though wasn't the first to suggest that Dawenkou culture had an Austronesian link. Dr. Shun-Sheng Ling, the first director of the Institute of Ethnology in Taiwan, had aggressively asserted such connections long ago.

Although Shun-Sheng Ling had a different demographic scenario than Solheim he still saw the Dawenkou as Austronesian people. He further went on to link them with the people known in ancient Chinese texts as the Dong Yi.

As the texts describe the Dong Yi in some detail, they will prove valuable in studying the Nusantao.

Another important tool is language reconstruction as we have already seen. Following is a list of reconstructions important in understanding early Nusantao society. Of the Proto-Austronesian (PAN) reconstuctions, those of Robert Blust follow the strictest pattern requiring representation in each major branch of Austronesian.

*qa(n)dih "monarch, ruler" PAN Lopez
*datu "clan chief, ruler" PAN Blust
*dDatu "prince, ruler" PAN Dyen
*[t]umpu' "lord, master" PAN Dempwolff
*pu' "lord" PAN Dempwolff
*pu? "lord" PAN Dyen
*tUqan "master" PAN Dyen
*tuvan "lord, master" PAN Dempwolf
*zurugan "captain" Proto-Philippine Zorc and Charles
*aGalen "lord" Proto-Philippine Zorc and Charles
*latu "lord, master" Proto-Polynesian

*'a(ng)g'i "clan" PAN Dempwolff
*ha(ng)a'i "clan" PAN Dempwolff
*t'uku' "clan" PAN Dempwolff

*parau "fleet" PAN Blust
*dDaun "flotilla, fleet" PAN Dyen

*ba(nN)i(q)aga "trade, commerce" PAN Blust
*bali(GD)yaq "trade," Proto-Philippine Zorc
*tau "trade," Proto-Polynesian
*lan[t]av "coastal trade," PAN Dempwolff
*dagang "merchant," PAN Dempwolff
*t'alin "translate (exchange)," PAN Dempwolff
*salin "translate (exchange)," Proto-Philippine Zorc
*haku*at "transport (ferry, carry)," Proto-Philippine Zorc & Charles
*d'aNd'i "treaty," PAN Dyen
*muti*a* "treasure," Proto-Philippine Zorc
*lumba' "competition," PAN Dempwolff
*[dr]ebat "competition," PAN Blust
*[dDr]ebat PAN Dyen

*bi(n)ting "fortress, fortification," PAN Dempwolff
*kuta' "fortress," PAN Dempwolff
*pantaw "lookout tower," Proto-Philppine Zorc

*sau "government," Proto-Polynesian
*gemgem "govern (fist)," Proto-Philippine Zorc and Charles
*tungul "flag, standard," PAN Dempwolff, Lopez

*'uvan "money" PAN Dempwolff
*huwaN "money" PAN Lopez
*vaNituku "money" Proto-Tsou Li

*d'u'al "sell" PAN Dempwolff
*balanZa "sell" PAN Dyen

*belih "buy" PAN Lopez
*(bB)eli "buy" PAN Prentice

*'utang "debt" PAN Dempwolff
*hutaN "debt" PAN Lopez
*qutaN "debt" PAN Dyen
*singir "collect debt" Proto-Philippine Zorc

*t'uyuh "commission, charge" PAN Dempwolff
*suRua "commission, charge" PAN Lopez
*'u(n)t't' "commission, charge" PAN Dempwolff

*gantih "compensation" PAN Dempwolff
*u(n)tuN "compensation" PAN Dyen
*utu "compensation" Proto-Philippine Zorc

*'upah 'payment' PAN Dempwolff
*upaq 'payment' PAN Dyen
*bayaD 'to pay, payment,' PAN Lopez, Dyen

*buhin "tax, taxation" Proto-Philippine, Zorc and Charles

PAN = Proto-Austronesian

To understand the social system of the Nusantao, a good illustration is the barangay concept.

Barangay is the name both of a ship and of the smallest social unit in areas of western Austronesia. You can think of a barangay as a community that was capable of moving around in one or a few ships of barangay size.

The mobility inherent in this definition is important. Because of the need for mobility among early semi-nomadic people, the Nusantao preferred smaller communities. Indeed this penchant continued for some time. Insular Southeast Asia had few large cities comparable to those of Cambodia or China even into medieval times. The great Buddhist temple of Borobodur, for example, the largest Buddhist temple in the world, seems to have been constructed by a network of towns and villages.

The average size for a barangay type community was about 500 people. They could be smaller or larger but usually not much larger. The barangay was headed by one or more chiefs.

Larger towns or fortresses were also built. These generally had earthen and/or timber walls protecting them. Even here though one should think that the largest of these would still have populations that could be transported by a large fleet of ships.

So the Nusantao at heart were mainly non-urban. This did not mean they all lived in squalor. In the 1700s, many a European sailor was ready to jump ship to live in Neolithic Polynesian villages rather than the big cities of Europe. Polynesians did not even make their own pottery although at one time they possessed this skill.

The Nusantao were nature-loving folk who lived vigorous lives. Because the community was sea-mobile, the leaders required command authority. They were also ship or fleet captains. In an ordinary village, such command structures are not necessary. But they are vital at sea.

So the social stratification system is simply a practical necessity for communities that migrated regularly on ships.

We know from studying more recent Austronesian societies that they tended to form networks rather than highly-centralized "kingdoms." We will dicuss these networks more in the next post.