The Wonders of Technology: Viewing the Southern Philippines through a Model Ship
Our modes of transportation reveal much about who we are as a society. Think about it: from immense oil tankers to rapid jets to electric cars—the designs of these methods of travel speak volumes about how we interact with one another, about our desires and our fears. This principle is readily apparent in the case of the Peabody Museum’s model of a vinta (60-20-70/D2459), a double outrigger sailing canoe from the southern Philippines that dates back to the early 1900s.
As this model reveals, this vessel’s design has been shaped over time by the context of its use. The vinta is uniquely suited to the protected waters of the Sulu Sea to which it is native, but would not fare well in the more open and unforgiving waters that are common to the South Pacific. With this in mind, why has the vinta played such a large role in the lives of the seafaring ethnic groups of this area? The answer to this question reveals a wealth of knowledge about not only the commerce and travel of the indigenous peoples of this area, but also the unique cultural history of the predominantly Muslim ethnic groups of the region.
This model Pelang (also known as a Vinta) dates to the turn of the 20th century and was possibly a children’s toy before being brought from the Philippines to the United States for display at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exhibition. The Pelang was a fishing and trade vessel used primarily by the Moro people on the Southern tip of Mindanao in the Sulu Sea. This model, at an approximate scale of 1:10, nicely demonstrates the detailed prow carvings (“ukil”) and trapezoidal sail of a Pelang. The vessel is made up of a hollowed out tree trunk and dual bamboo outriggers which are cantilevered from the hull. The design evidences both the speed of the vessel and the prevailing theory that the dual outrigger was most recently developed and most advanced form of vessel in the Pacific before the 20th century.
The Moro Vinta
“The Moro Vinta” above is an example of a pre-20th century fishing and transportation vessel from the Philippines. The model represents a vinta, double-outrigger canoe that was built in Zamboanga City, Mindanao, Philippines. This style boat is made for speed and stability to easily navigate the choppy waters between the islands of Mindanao. The Moro people (residents of the city) designed these ships with colorful, vibrant sails to signify their colorful history and culture of their Muslim heritage! The passenger of this canoe would either carry loads of fish that were caught that day or carry people to other islands. Either way, this vessel was very important to the lives of the Moro people! The vinta boat in present day is still a highly significant symbol to the people of Zamboanga City, Mindanao, being used for transportation of people and goods between local islands.
If you were to have your own vinta canoe, what colors would you use to represent your culture??
Content of this page provided by students of Anthro 1218: Shipwrecks and Seafarers, Piracy and Plundering: An Introduction to Maritime Archaeology.