Sources of History
Sources of information provide the evidence from which the historian obtains facts about the past. In writing history, the historian not only relies on past thoughts rather re-enacts it in the context of analysing the documents and other records left. This is an indispensable condition in the quest for historical facts.
Primary sources are those that have witnessed the event that took place or have been part of the incident being studied. These include written records (e.g. narratives, manuscripts, public documents, letters, diaries), fossils, artifacts and testimony from living witnesses. On the other hand, secondary sources have not been part of the event being considered such as magazines, newspapers, pamphlets, typescripts, and articles written about the primary sources.
Prehistory, a term given by 19th century French scholars, covers the past human experiences prior to the existence of written records. The basic source of prehistory is archaeology, which is a sub-discipline of anthropology (i.e., the study of all aspects of human life and culture). Archaeology is the study of past cultures. Archaeologists study artifacts (materials equipment made bt people of the past like tools, pottery, and jewelry) and fossils (preserved remains of plants, animals and people of a remote geological past). Archaeological excavation refers to the systematic recovery and study of these pieces of material evidence.
Archaeology gives us an idea how things might have looked like at a particular time. Cultural artifacts may be looked at as concrete expressions of the ancient settlers’ way in dealing with the problem of adaptation to the environment. Their achievements in material and social culture show much of their behaviour, values, and beliefs as well as their intellectual maturity.
Unfortunately, the reconstruction of the Philippine prehistory will always be incomplete. Many of the object recovered have disintegrated over time. Materials like wood, barks of trees, and clothing decompose easily particularly in a tropical climate such as ours. Devices made of stone, clay soil, metal and the like, can survive most likely the society that created it and thus, be presently known through the efforts of the archaeologists.
Early archaeological undertakings in the Philippines began with the first major expedition in 1881 by a Frenchman, Alfred Marche in the island of Marinduque and other sites in Central Philippines. Most of his collections are now with the Musee de l’ homme in Paris, and some in Madrid. There were also sporadic finds and pot-hunting activities in various parts of the archipelago prior to this major archaeological excavation. Feodor Jagor, a German traveller, reported having encountered a priest in Naga, Camarines Sur who collected artifacts from ancient graveyards.
Dr. Antonio de Morga, is his Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas (Historical Events of the Philippine Islands), described the ancient artifacts that were recovered by farmers in Luzon, particularly in Ilocos, Pangsinan, Pampanga, and Manila. These were clay vessels of dark brown color and some marked with characters. These items are no longer being manufactured in the islands.
Jose Rizal, the country’s foremost hero was noted to have found ground and polished stone tools during his exile in Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte.
The second major archaeological exploration was carried out by Carl Guthe from the university of Michigan from 1922 to 1925. With his team, they conducted several test-digs in Palawan, Bohol, Northern Mindanao and other places in Central Philippines. The purpose of this Michigan archaeological expedition was to collect Chinese ceramics exported to the Philippines from China, to look into the early Filipino-Chinese relationship. The collection, resulting from the excavations, consisted of more than 30 cubic tons of prehistoric artifacts. They are now kept at the...
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