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Shell tool technology in Island Southeast Asia: an early Middle Holocene Tridacna adze from Ilin Island, Mindoro, Philippines

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 April 2015

Alfred F. Pawlik*
Archaeological Studies Program, University of the Philippines, Albert Hall, Lakandula Street, Diliman, Quezon City1101, the Philippines (Email:
Philip J. Piper
School of Archaeology and Anthropology, Australian National University, AD Hope Building #14, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia
Rachel E. Wood
Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, 142 Mills Road, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia
Kristine Kate A. Lim
Archaeological Studies Program, University of the Philippines, Albert Hall, Lakandula Street, Diliman, Quezon City1101, the Philippines (Email:
Marie Grace Pamela G. Faylona
Faculty of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Philippine Normal University, Taft Avenue, Manila City 1000, the Philippines
Armand Salvador B. Mijares
Archaeological Studies Program, University of the Philippines, Albert Hall, Lakandula Street, Diliman, Quezon City1101, the Philippines (Email:
Martin Porr
Archaeology, School of Social Sciences, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia
*Author for correspondence (Email:


Shell artefacts in Island Southeast Asia have often been considered local variants of ground-stone implements, introduced in the Late Pleistocene from Mainland Southeast Asia. The discovery of a well-preserved Tridacna shell adze from Ilin Island in the Philippines, suggests, however, a different interpretation. Using radiocarbon dating, X-ray diffraction and stratigraphic and chronological placement within the archaeological record, the authors place the ‘old shell’ effect into context, and suggest that shell technology was in fact a local innovation that emerged in the early Middle Holocene. The chronology and distribution of these artefacts has significant implications for the antiquity of early human interaction between the Philippines and Melanesia. It may have occurred long before the migrations of Austronesian-speaking peoples and the emergence of the Lapita Cultural Complex that are traditionally thought to mark the first contact.

Copyright © Antiquity Publications Ltd., 2015 

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