The anthropomorphic jars of Maitum

More news of the anthropomorphic jars found in Maitum, Southern Philippines are coming in including some pictures as seen on the websites. The cave site was accidentally found last weekend through the action of some bulldozing and is currently cordoned off by local authorities to prevent looting.

Maitum cave yields artifacts similar to 1991 find
Minda News, 10 Apr 2008
Ancient Burial Cave Discovered In Mindanao
The Mindanao Explorer, 10 Apr 2008
New cave find linked to ancient burial jars
Philippine Information Agency, 11 Apr 2008
LGU, MILF protect newly-found burial site
Philippine Information Agency, 11 Apr 2008

Similar anthropomorphic jars were found a few hundred metres away from this site in 1991. According the Philippine National Museum Dr. Eusebio Dizon, the anthropomorphic design of the jars seem to be unique in the Philippines, and each face on the jar also carries a distinct design – even distinct emotions. Radiocarbon dating of the soot found in the 1991 jars put them to between 5 BCE and 370 BCE, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if these new jars were dated in a similar context.

The cave portal is located about three meters above the road level, about five to six meters into the bulldozed portion of a hill. One goes down the portal to get into the cave. Around 15 meters away on the bend, residents pointed to what they said was the opening of the cave that no one has entered, they said, because it is too small.

Among the artifacts photographed inside the cave by Maitum information officer Beth Palma Gil last Sunday were small potsherds, bones, animal teeth but she could not say whether or not the bones were with the potsherds as apparently some people had earlier segregated the sherds from the bones.

It looks like some of the context of the cave has already been disturbed, and it’s a race against time for the museum team to send an investigative team down.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

3 thoughts on “The anthropomorphic jars of Maitum”

  1. Hi Cyche,

    anthropomorphic = shaped like a man (or rather, human). So in this case the jar has some human-like features to them. There’s a picture of the jar on the post.

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