via Vogue, 05 August 2023: An exploration of the gold funerary articles found in the Philippines and the threat posed by grave robbers and antiquities trafficking to the understanding of Filipino cultural genesis. Th author was the person who first called out the Filipino celebrity who wore these gold masks that were repurposed as jewellery.
The jewelry were made, worn, and brought to the grave by people who are presumably ancestral to today’s Filipino. (Caveat: an atypical but nevertheless science-based position holds that at least the most spectacular pieces were made outside what is now the Philippines and traded into entrepôts like Butuan.) The finds buttress a kind of nationalism built on the desire to find and flaunt proof of civilization, as it is typically asserted, “before the arrival of the Spanish.” Certainly this beautiful old gold supports this civilizational narrative.
Yet these grave accouterments also seep out of this narrative. Archaeologists and anthropologists agree that neither cities, nor armies, nor kingdoms emerged in the archipelago. Those who define civilization as cities, armies, and centralized, exceedingly stratified social hierarchy will not accept the antecedents of today’s Filipinos as civilized. Without courts and aristocracies, how, then, to explain superlative artistry?
Among the Philippines’ culturati are those who solve this vexation by deciding that at least Butuan, and perhaps other river mouth settlements, were kingdoms of a sort. Might have been a city? But nay, science does not support this supposition.