Road project threatend Philippine mummy site

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A road construction project in Philippines’ Mountain province runs uncomfortably close to some sacred mummy burial sites, sparking criticism.

Hanging coffins of Sagada. Source: Inquirer 20160627

Hanging coffins of Sagada. Source: Inquirer 20160627

Sacred mummy cave in Sagada threatened by DPWH-DOT road project
The Inquirer, 27 June 2016

A government road-widening project in Sagada, Mountain Province is threatening the integrity of an ancient mummy burial cave in Ambasing Village.

The road-widening is part of the “convergence project” of the Department of Public Works (DPWH) and Department of Tourism (DOT) designed to ease traffic to and from the picturesque Mountain Province municipality.

The convergence project has irked residents who have criticized the local and national governments for their reckless disregard of environmental, heritage, and even sensitive cultural-religious concerns caused by public works in aid of tourism profits.

Full story here.

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The mummies of the Philippines

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Mummies of Ibaloi. Source: Daily Mail 20150121

A feature on the burial practices of the Ibaloi, who desiccate their dead and deposit the bodies in mountain caves.

Mummies of Ibaloi. Source: Daily Mail 20150121

Mummies of Ibaloi. Source: Daily Mail 20150121

Remains of the Fire Mummies: Ancient Ibaloi people SMOKED their dead 1,000 years ago… and stored them in caverns 4,000ft up the side of a Philippine mountain where they still lie
Daily Mail, 21 January 2015

A dark cave thousands of feet up the side of a remote mountain in the Philippines is the final resting place of these curious corpses known as ‘fire mummies’.

The Ibaloi people, an ancient race from the Philippines, smoked their dead dry for months to mummify them – giving them their firey nickname.

The preserved remains lie in dark caverns 4,000ft up the side of Mount Timbac, near Kabayan in the province of Benguet, 200 miles north of capital Manila.

Full story here.

Vietnamese mummy on display

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The remains of a preserved body, recovered from an archaeological site 17 years ago is on display at the Vietnamese History Museum in Ho Chi Minh City. The mummy is of a female, 60 years old at time of death, and is over a hundred years old. (Warning: link has images of the actual body, which may be discomforting for some readers).

Vietnamese History Museum, Vietnam Net Bridge 20110608

The secret of mummy at Vietnam History Museum
Vietnam Net Bridge, 08 June 2011
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The mystery of the Vietnamese mummies

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24 November 2007 (Vietnam Net Bridge) – The Vietnam Archaeology Institute take on the conservation of two 300-year-old preserved bodies of monks. The two mummies are regarded as sacred objects and how they came to be mummified (embalmed, really) is a mystery.

Vietnam Net Bridge, 24 Nov 2007

The mummies return
Duc Hanh heads to Dau pagoda where where two mysterious mummies have lived in silence for 300 years Past a lake and a number of paddy fields, the Dau pagoda sits in isolation near the outskirts of Gia Phuc village in Ha Tay province.

Although originally built in the 11th century under the Ly Dynasty, the pagoda bears the hallmarks of Le-Nguyen dynasty in the 17th century as a number of renovations occurred at that time. Dau pagoda is officially named Thanh Dao Tu or Phap Vu Tu and is dedicated to the Goddess of Rain.

But I’m here to meet two monks, who are shrouded in mystery. At first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking these monks were just statues. But in actual fact these are a pair of monks, Vu Khac Minh and monk Vu Khac Truong, who lived in the pagoda more than 300 years ago, were embalmed and preserved after their death.

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Mummies in the Philippines

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An unusual post by comparison, because it’s not based on a news report. I managed to catch the Fire Mummies of the Philippines that was showing on Discovery Channel (Asia) over these last two days which led me to do a web search about the mummies in Philippines, especially since there isn’t usually a lot of news on the archaeology of Philippines.

The mummies of Kabayan, in the Benguet Province, part of the Cordillera mountain range in North Luzon (the main island of the Philippines) is home to the Ibaloi people, who have a tradition of mummifying their dead between the 13th and 16th century. This practice was stopped by Spanish colonisers who introduced Christianity and the practice of burial.

Like most mummy-making processes, the bodies are preserved by dehydration. The dying or dead person is made to ingest salt water to dry the internal organs. Upon death, the body is sat above a small fire to expel fluids from the body. Finally, the body is sun-dried with the help of the community and placed in a prepared pinewood coffin. The coffins are interred in burial caves carved into the rock through the mountain. The entire process takes approximately two years.

Over 200 caves have been identified, and 15 of them contain human remains. It is suspected that the locals know of the existence of more mummies, but are unwilling to disclose their location because of widespread looting that has taken place. Looting for skulls and teeth by private collectors overseas have led to massive destruction of many of the bodies, while some locals go after fingers and fingernails as talismans for good luck. There simply isn’t enough funding to go around to protect these sites, even after having been flagged by Monument Watch.