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Environmental history of an early Spanish settlement in the Visayas, Philippines: Excavations in the Parian District of Cebu City

by Mark Horrocks last modified 2021-04-07 02:55 PM

Peterson J, Tiauzon A, Horrocks M, Kottermair M. 2020. SPAFA 4,


The Jesuit House was built in 1730 on land reclaimed from the Tinago Marsh at the edge of the early Spanish settlement of Cebu City, Philippines, two centuries after it was first encountered by the Spanish explorer Magellan. As the city expanded from its core areas ca. 1565 around Fort San Pedro, Plaza Independencia, and the sites of Santo Nino Church and the Cebu Cathedral, waterways were drained and filled, and canals were dredged to extend the urban Spanish grid. Archaeological excavations at the Jesuit House and in the nearby Casa Gorordo Annex project document these changes in the urban landscape.

Soil profiles throughout the downtown coastal plain in conjunction with chronostratigraphic data from the excavations demonstrate its submergence during the late Holocene high sea still-stand, followed by dissection by local drainages and the Guadalupe River. Relict channels and distinct interfluvial terraces are observed showing a migrating series of channels along the shoreline as well as a distinct escarpment at the back of the plain that marked the limits of marine intrusion during the high still-stand. Visayans and Spanish settlers selected higher ground for settlement in the interfluves and modified lowland areas such as the marshlands one of which became the Parian District of urban Cebu. Archaeological investigations at the Jesuit House and the Casa Gorordo Annex document the environmental history as well as the transition from native to colonial lifeways at the edge of Empire.


Environmental history, Cebu City, Philippines, early Spanish settlement, landscape archaeology.

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