Japanese ceramics found in Cebu archaeological site

Japanese ceramics from the Hizen kilns found in the Boljoon archaeological site in Cebu add another layer to the complexity of trade and exchange networks going on in the Philippines during the 17th century.

Japanese ceramics in Boljoon
Philippine Inquirer, 23 September 2010

It has been a year since we wrapped up our fifth month-long archaeological excavations in the Patrocinio de Maria Church grounds in Boljoon town, southeast Cebu. The timing couldn’t have been better.

Dr. Takenori Nogami, one of the foremost experts in Hizen ceramics in the world, recently confirmed to me by e-mail that three ceramic pieces we recovered last year were not Chinese but were produced by the Hizen kilns in Japan – a finding already made by the National Museum in its report on the excavations some six months ago. These three comprise a blue-and-white double gourd jarlet, a red overglaze bottle and a very large shallow bowl or charger with enamel designs copying those found on chinaware of the same period.

What makes the finds very significant is that before these came into the record, no intact or complete Japanese porcelain ware have ever been recovered in any site in the Philippines. These three pieces therefore continue to add the sterling record of Boljoon as a well-preserved and intact archaeological site, devoid of the looting and incessant grave robbing that would have yielded similar intact finds elsewhere.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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