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Harvey Pascua and Ronald Ortiz* both live in the Marianas. They share the same first name/surname structure. They look alike.  They are both Roman Catholics. But they have different nationalities.

Harvey is Ilocano from Cagayan. He is an Overseas Filipino Worker since 10 years ago. Ronald, on the other hand, is a Chamorro, a native of the Marianas island. They have the same name structure and share a common religion because of the shared history of the Marianas and the Philippines. Both were colonies of Spain and the USA.

But they may be more related based on a paper which appeared recently in Antiquity [1].

New comparisons of pottery assemblages from the Marianas and the Philippines give strong support that Harvey and Ronald may have the same ancestors.  Ronald’s forefathers travel 2,300 kms of open ocean to reach the Marianas most probably from the Northern Philippines - an epic voyage which is probably the longest during that time (between 1500 and 1400 BC).  Putting it in the world’s timeline, the travel happened during the Late Bronze age when the Shang dynasty was ruling China, and the Hettite empire was reaching its height.

Similar pottery decorations from: 1) Nagsabaran, northern Philippines; 2) Achugao, Saipan, Mariana Islands; 3) Site 13 at Lapita, New Caledonia (2, courtesy of Brian Butler, see Butler 1994; 3, courtesy of Christophe Sand, see Sand 1999: 46). Courtesy: Hung et al, Antiquity, 85 (329), 909-926.

What are the similarities?

The red-slipped, circle- and punctate-stamped pottery from several sites in the Cagayan Valley in Luzon is most similar to that from the Marianas.

According to the authors, “The early period Marianas pottery resembles a sub-set of the more diverse Nagsabaran (Cagayan valley) pottery.”

“The Nagsabaran motifs, in which one or more rows of stamped circles lie parallel to incised bands filled with comb-like punctate or dentate stamping (see figure, group 1), are all extremely similar to those of the earliest Marianas Red (group 2).”

Moreover, radiocarbon sequence  implied that the pottery in Nagsabaran which dates between 2000 and 1300 BC, started before and overlapped with the earliest Marianas dates.

The authors also examined potteries of South East Asia including Taiwan and Batanes to know the geographical occurrence of the  circle- and punctate-stamping design. They wrote that circled-stamp potteries are common in Batanes (1300 BC and AD 1) while Taiwan has either the circle-stamping or the punctate-stamping, but never together.  Taiwan has the oldest red-slipped pottery in Island Southeast Asia.

The authors added, “very small amounts of punctuate-stamped pottery occur in parts of East Malaysia (Sabah) and eastern Indonesia, again in association with red slipped surfaces. But the available illustrated motifs are very small and difficult to relate precisely to any on Luzon or the Marianas.”

The circle- and punctate-stamping represented in the Cagayan Valley extends at least as far south as Masbate Island in the central Philippines.

Other clues: Language and Genetics

Based on language,  the most likely source for Chamorro and the inhabitants of the Marianas is the Philippines.  Chamorro is classified with the West Malayo-Polynesian Languages, and that Proto-Oceanic and Chamarro share no unique subgrouping innovations. Linguists suggest that the people of the Marianas may have come from the central or northern Philippines and that the Chamorro language split early from Proto-Malayo-Polynesian.

According to research on Chamorro mtDNA, the people belong to haplogroup E lineages that occurs widely in the Philippines and Indonesia, and has a low occurrence of the widespread Oceanic mtDNA haplogroup B4.

Was it a drift voyage?

The authors wrote:

A drift voyage at the mercy of dominant winds and currents would have been extremely unlikely to reach the Marianas from any source area, so an intentional voyage of exploration is more probable. Actual settlement required sufficient numbers of males and females, plus at least some imported subsistence plants, even perhaps animals eaten en route, so it is likely that a degree of planning was involved. While the first explorers to discover the Mariana Islands may have possessed many cultural traits and skills shared commonly throughout a broad region, the subsequent successful colonisation indicates strong similarities of pottery type and language with the northern Philippines.

The take home is that there are movements of early people across vast oceans as early as 1500 BC.  These seafarers have skills and planning capabilities to travel back and forth of over 2000 kms of treacherous open sea.

And yes before I forget, Harvey and Ronald are also both haligi ng tahanan.

_____________________________

Journal Reference:

[1] Hung H., Carson M.T., Bellwood P., Campos F.Z, Piper P.J., Dizon E., Bolunia M.J.L.A., Oxenham M., and Chi Z. (2012). The first settlement of Remote Oceania: the Philippines to the Marianas Antiquity, 85 (329), 909-926.

*Not their real names.

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