2011 Field School

The History Behind Stones:
Investigating the Archaeology of an Old Stone House in Pinagbayanan, San Juan, Batangas
By aspfieldschool2011

From April to May 2011, the Archaeological Studies Program Field School investigated the ruins of a second stone house or “Bahay na Bato,” recorded as Structure B. The archaeological investigation of Structure B concludes the three-year archaeological field school in San Juan, Batangas. The knowledge gained through archaeological research enriches our understanding of San Juan’s Spanish colonial history as well as the practice of archaeology here in the Philippines. The San Juan Field School will not be a success without the tremendous support of the local community.

The ASP Field School 2009 and 2010 teams focused on investigating the ruins of the first stone house called “Structure A”, north of Structure B. They opened twelve trenches around the ruins of Structure A to investigate how it was constructed and utilized as well as its relationship with other stone structures in the area. The 2011 Field School team initially opened four trenches to investigate Structure B. The cultural materials or artefacts recovered from the excavation of the two stone ruins were analyzed to explore how people in 19th century San Juan lived. To date, the results of the 2009 and 2010 Field school teams’ painstaking research are now being prepared for publication.

Structure B was constructed in the late 1880s using grout, solid and dry masonry building techniques in different parts of the house. Lime-and-cement mortar was used as fill and binding agent for the adobe and conglomerate blocks used to form its walls and pillars. Tisa (i.e. clay roof tile) and baldosa (i.e. clay floor tile) fragments, ceramic sherds, and volcanic rocks were utilized as aggregates in the lime-cement mortar to strengthen the structure. Postholes on the column bases and walls were also exposed during the excavation. Worked capiz shells for windows as well as unprocessed shells were also collected from the site. A piece of thick corrugated galvanized iron sheet (i.e. yero) with a thickness of about 0.245 cm was also recovered, indicating that the house’s roofing was most probably made of G.I. sheets.

From the analysis of the diverse construction techniques and materials used in different parts of the structure, the team has been able to infer that the house had two phases of construction. The first phase was the construction of the eastern portion of the house where the walls are much thicker and remains of four pillars are located. There were also two phases of occupation on the eastern side whereas there were evidence of only one occupation phase in the west. The abandonment and destruction phases were also determined through the analyses of sediment layers and their associated artefacts.

Being the former poblacion of San Juan, Pinagbayanan is a town rich in history. Ruins of stone structures are found across the landscape of Pinagbayan dating from the Spanish colonial period. Through the careful recovery and analyses of materials from both Structures A and B, the teams have examined how the houses were occupied, abandoned and destroyed.

* Last September 5-9,2011 a public exhibit on the preliminary results of the archaeological investigation of Structure B was mounted on the first floor lobby of Palma Hall, University of the Philippines-Diliman. The team is currently analysing the artefacts recovered with the aim of publishing the results in a book.

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