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Negros archaeological history is still insufficiently documented. Although evidence of trade goods and gold ornaments have been discovered since the 1970s, many of the finds came about by accident and unsystematic "pot hunting" has disturbed many sites. Nonetheless, whatever had been foundNeolithic tools, pottery, porcelain, gold ornaments, etc. relate Negros to other islands like Luzon, Mindoro and Cebu. But systematic and extensive archaeological studies done by Junkers at the Tanjay River basin indicate the presences of numerous settlements coexisting as trading partners. The botanical evidence suggests a significant volume of both food and nonfood plants were being imported from the Tanjay Region uplands in the centuries marking the height of foreign trade at Tanjay.

The fourth largest island in the Philippines, approximately 200 kilometers at its greatest length, and about 90 at its greatest breadth, the boot-shaped Negros is located south of Panay and Guimaras, north of Cebu, Bohol and Mindanao. The relatively short distances between these islands make island hopping feasible. Panay and Negros are between 13 and 70 kilometers distant; from Negros to the nearest point of Mindanao is a mere 45 kilometers and Cebu across the deep Taon Strait is only 4 kilometers distant. Located in the center of the Visayas region, Negros shares the same topographic characteristic of neighboring Panay, a volcanic island with a mountainous spine, set more toward the eastern coast. Tall volcanoes dominate the cordilleras.

Negros' volcanic origin has made the island fertile and fit for large scale agriculture, but the eastward and southward siting of the cordilleras leaves little room for plains to the east and south, except for a small pocket at Tanjay and Bais. For this reason, the large sugar plantations or hacienda, the backbone of Negros' economy are found to the west and north.

Negros is first mentioned in Spanish documents by Magellan's chronicler Antonio de Pigafetta who writes of an island west of Cebu inhabited by Negritos. An exploratory expedition of sixteen, sent by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and headed by Esteban Rodriguez de Figueroa to explore Cebu island, was driven by currents to Negros. The group reported the presence of Negroes in the hinterland and natives of Malay ancestry who tattooed their bodies. By 1571, Negros had been divided into encomiendas among 17 encomenderos, reduced to ten in 1576. For more than two centuries, the Spanish were somewhat dismissive of the island, daunted by the thick forests that blanketed the island up to the shore. They concentrated their attention on Panay and Cebu.

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Page last modified: 31-03-2012 18:56:56 ZULU