Archaeology in a war zone

Last month, a hoard of rare potsherds that were looted from an archaeological site in Mindanao, Philippines, was intercepted by law enforcement officials. While it is fortunate that the artefacts were recovered, the damage has already been done in the loss of valuable contextual data. Furthermore, the ongoing war between the Philippine military and seccessionist groups in the region are threatening to further destroy any archaeological potential found in Mindanao, by inadvertently destroying sites or facilitating looting to fund further conflicts.

Maitum jars: the other casualty of the war in Mindanao
05 November 2008, Minda News

The secret to unlocking the identity and history of the first peoples in Mindanao rests deep inside the lost caves and hidden crevices in Maitum, a rustic coastal town in Sarangani. It is here where pre-historic anthropomorphic and burials jars were discovered more than a decade ago.

These caves and crevices may be a key to bringing lasting peace in this war torn island.
Unfortunately, these historical places and the priceless treasure trove they contained have become the other significant casualties of the war in Mindanao – a war that has already claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands and the exodus of millions of residents from their homes.


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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.

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