Mindanao caves need further study and money

The National Museum of Philippines has submitted an additional proposal for the study and protection of the recently discovered Sagel Cave. There’s much more work needed to be done on the cave and surrounding areas, but it looks like budgetary constraints will hamper much of the work – a common occurrence for archaeology in Southeast Asia and around the world.

National Museum to send proposed budget for more studies of Sagel Cave
Minda News, 28 April 2008
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Negritos or Malays: Who are the original inhabitants of the Philippines?


When I was younger, I remember reading in a Filipino children’s book that the Filipinos were made up of a migratory Malay population. I didn’t think much of it then until this article came up which challenges the notion of the indigenous Filipino.

Who are the indigenous?
The Philippine Inquirer, 12 February 2008
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Early Ilonggo-Bisaya identity


Henry F. Funtecha writes about the Ilonggo-Bisaya, one of the major linguistic groups in the Philippine archipelago, summarizing what is known about them from historical and archaeological sources.

Early Ilonggo-Bisaya identity
The News Today, 04 January 2008
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No cave treasure hunting without permit!

Treasure hunters beware! No more cave exploring in search of lost treasures without a permit, so says the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources!

DENR requires treasure hunters to get permits
The Philippine Inquirer, 19 December 2007
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Jade analysis reveals ancient Southeast Asian network

20 November 2007 (ABC News in Science, Reuters) – A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals the existence of an extensive interaction network involving Taiwanese jade (nephrite) as far back as 5,000 years ago. The jade artefacts turn up in Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines (where it is known locally as lingling-o). Using a newly-developed process to analyse the jade, the study found that 116 out of the 144 artefacts came from the same source in Taiwan. The predominant source of jade in Taiwan, coupled with the distribution of the jade artefacts throughout Southeast Asia and their relative uniformity of the artefact types, leads to the conclusion that there must have been an extensive degree of interaction between different Southeast Asian populations, even across the sea. What’s left now is to uncover the technique used to create the jade artefacts. Experimental archaeology, anyone?

ABC News in Science / PNAS 20 nov 2007

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Archaeological Fieldwork in Cebu, Philippines

08 November 2007 (Philippine Inquirer) – Anyone interested in fieldwork in Cebu? The National Museum and the Committee on Sites, Relics and Structures of the Cebu Provincial Government is looking for volunteers for an investigation on a site in Bantayan Island in North Cebu from mid-November to early December. You’ll have to read all the way to the end of the article for details about the fieldwork.

Mangyan in Cebu
By Joeber Bersales

No need to climb the steep and cold mountains of Mindoro to get a glimpse of the culture of one of the last four indigenous groups in the country that still use the syllabary (or baybayin) that antedates the Spanish colonial period by centuries. Well, not just yet. The Mangyan Heritage Center (MHC) and the University of San Carlos (USC) Museum opened yesterday a traveling exhibit entitled “The Mangyans of Mindoro: Myth and Meaning” – and admission is absolutely free.

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Could smuggled antiquities be on sale on eBay?

Could Philippine antiquities by sold off illegally on eBay? Very recently, the Greco Shipwreck Artifact Auction was a 2,500 lot auction consisting of various Asian antiquities supposedly found in the waters of Southeast Asia. The name behind the seller rings very familiar to one Philip Greco, who, if you search this site was mired in some controversy in 2005 when he got into some trouble with the Malaysian government over antiquities shipping. The article never establishes if the Greco in the eBay auction is the same Greco who got into trouble with Malaysia. SEAArch does not condone the selling of antiquities by treasure hunters.

12 October 2007 (The Inquirer) – Could Philippine antiquities by sold off illegally on eBay? Very recently, the Greco Shipwreck Artifact Auction was a 2,500 lot auction consisting of various Asian antiquities supposedly found in the waters of Southeast Asia. The name behind the seller rings very familiar to one Philip Greco, who, if you search this site was mired in some controversy in 2005 when he got into some trouble with the Malaysian government over antiquities shipping. The article never establishes if the Greco in the eBay auction is the same Greco who got into trouble with Malaysia. SEAArch does not condone the selling of antiquities by treasure hunters.

Is Greco still selling off our heritage?
By Joeber Bersales

Today, the on-line auction firm eBay will wrap up the auction of an intriguing collection of what are labeled as Philippine jars placed during the past seven days by California-based Auctions by the Bay, an antiquities shop in the United States. (Go to the eBay website, www.eBay.com, type “Philippines” on the left-most blank window and scroll down the menu marked “All Categories” immediately next to it. Stop at “Antiquities” and click the “Search” button. If you read this in time, you might still view some of the items that have not been bid out yet.)

These items are part of a large collection called the “Greco Shipwreck Artifact Auction” that include priceless funerary urns and white wares from the Sung and Yuan dynasties (11th to 14th century), blue and white wares from the Ming (15th to 17th century) and Qing (late 17th to early 20th century) dynasties, as well as numerous ceramics from Thai and Vietnamese kilns contemporaneous with the Ming and Qing dynasties. Not only are ceramic wares being auctioned off, bronze items, labeled “Han-like” figures of animals, are also included, probably 12th century copies of early Neolithic bronze decorative arts in China. There is even a wooden “lusong” (mortar, no pestle) erroneously labeled “Philippine Tribal Wooden Drum Stand”!

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Philippines and India: Politics and ancient history

It’s not so much and archaeological story as it is a political one. The Philippine president attempts to revive ancient “ties” with India by citing Indian cultural influence by way of Srivijaya and Majapahit. I find it quite funny that the basis for reviving ties is not so much because of any historic ties with India per se (whatever “India” was in the past), but by the fact that Indian “culture” was transmitted to the Philippines. Which doesn’t really say anything, does it?


06 October 2007 (The Inquirer) – It’s not so much and archaeological story as it is a political one. The Philippine president attempts to revive ancient “ties” with India by citing Indian cultural influence by way of Srivijaya and Majapahit. I find it quite funny that the basis for reviving ties is not so much because of any historic ties with India per se (whatever “India” was in the past), but by the fact that Indian “culture” was transmitted to the Philippines. Which doesn’t really say anything, does it?

Arroyo cites ancient Philippines-India ties
By Michael Lim Ubac

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Friday sought to revive the Philippines’ ancient ties with India even as she called on the two countries’ leaders to “move the integration of our economies forward.”

The President was accorded full military honors when she arrived here on the second day of a three-day state visit aimed at strengthening bilateral relations.

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Finding gold in Bantayan

With stories like these, one gets the impression that there is a lot of undiscovered archaeological potential in the Philippine islands that have yet to be surveyed, excavated and recovered. In this piece, the author writes about how archaeological material – prehispanic material culture as well as trade ceramics – have been recovered in the town of Bantayan, in Cebu.

13 September 2007 (Cebu Daily News) – With stories like these, one gets the impression that there is a lot of undiscovered archaeological potential in the Philippine islands that have yet to be surveyed, excavated and recovered. In this piece, the author writes about how archaeological material – prehispanic material culture as well as trade ceramics – have been recovered in the town of Bantayan, in Cebu. A map attached here to give you a sense of the geography of the place.

Bantayan Map
click here to go to this googlemap.

Finding gold in Bantayan
By Joeber Bersales

If I had even just 5 percent or P35 million of the P700 million that Erap Estrada was convicted yesterday of plundering from the nation, I will immediately spend P30 million to buy and repair the only remaining tile-roofed trading house in Bantayan—one of three houses built by the legendary Manuel ‘Capitan Tawi’ Rubio at the height of his wealth in the 1850s. I will use the remaining P5 million to carry out a systematic archaeological study of this island as well as of the entire island of Cebu.

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Clues to Philippine prehistory


24 August 2007 (The Inquirer) – Columnist Ambeth Ocampo writes about the ceramics, commonly trade ceramics, found in Philippines and in Philippine waters.

Clues to Philippine prehistory
by Ambeth Ocampo

MANILA, Philippines — At the start of each semester, when I meet a new class for the first time and go over the syllabus, I watch out for the collective groan that comes when I announce that a visit to the National Museum is required. For many college students who had to endure a grade school trip to the museum, going there a second or third time is considered cruel and unusual punishment. This mind-set is not the fault of the museum; it is the fault of the teacher or museum guide who did not infect the students with a sense of discovery and appreciation of our past. Many of my students complain after visiting the National Museum that they do not want to see another piece of blue-and-white ceramic for the rest of their lives, but they say this because they do not appreciate not just the artistic and symbolic beauty of the pieces but more importantly the fact that these are traces of a long and complex story that goes beyond our written history.

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