Datus, Rajahs, and Sultans: How Wealthy and Powerful Were the Pre-Colonial Filipino Nobility?

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Source: Wikimedia Commons/ Town and Country PH 20190121

via Town and Country PH, 21 January 2019: Clothing and symbols of power in pre-colonial Philippines.

While the Europeans considered gold and land as the standard of economic wealth especially in the age of mercantilism in the 1500s, the Filipino datus, who had a natural abundance of both land and gold in their domains, considered people to be the most important symbol of wealth and power. According to Abinales and Amoroso, this was the result of the Philippines’ abundance of natural resources and shortage of human resources.

It was crucial for datus to maintain control and accumulate dependents and alliances to maintain their power, around which society was built at the time.

Source: Datus, Rajahs, and Sultans: How Wealthy and Powerful Were the Pre-Colonial Filipino Nobility? | T&C Ph

Categories: Philippines


Ancient Angkorian jewellery to go on show

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via Khmer Times, 04 January 2018:

The government will launch a special exhibition of old Khmer jewellery and ornaments, especially a set of ancient Angkorian gold jewellery that has been returned to Cambodia, to let the public see how beautiful these…

Source: Ancient Angkorian jewellery to go on show – Khmer Times

See also:

Khmer jewelry returns to Cambodia, twice, last month

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In two separate events Angkorian jewelry was returned to Cambodia late last month. The first set was from a planned sale at a UK-based auction house which was listed lost November; the second was volunteered by a Hungarian art collector who said he had bought the pieces but “didn’t provide details on how they were acquired”.

Source: Collection of ‘Priceless’ Artifacts Given to National Museum – The Cambodia Daily (25 April 2017)


Ancient Angkorian Jewelry Set Recovered From UK Art Dealership – VOA Khmer (26 April 2017)

Ancient jewellery to return: ministry – Phnom Penh Post (24 April 2017)

Categories: Cambodia


Signs of early symbolic behaviour found in Indonesia

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From the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, a new paper highlights discoveries excavated in Sulawesi from 30,000 years ago, showing that humans were engaged in making symbolic artefacts in the form of jewelry, portable art and used ochre (probably for creating rock art which we already know is very old in Sulawesi). The finds suggest a cultural sophistication that we rarely see this early in the archaeological record.


Wallacea, the zone of oceanic islands separating the continental regions of Southeast Asia and Australia, has yielded sparse evidence for the symbolic culture of early modern humans. Here we report evidence for symbolic activity 30,000–22,000 y ago at Leang Bulu Bettue, a cave and rock-shelter site on the Wallacean island of Sulawesi. We describe hitherto undocumented practices of personal ornamentation and portable art, alongside evidence for pigment processing and use in deposits that are the same age as dated rock art in the surrounding karst region. Previously, assemblages of multiple and diverse types of Pleistocene “symbolic” artifacts were entirely unknown from this region. The Leang Bulu Bettue assemblage provides insight into the complexity and diversification of modern human culture during a key period in the global dispersal of our species. It also shows that early inhabitants of Sulawesi fashioned ornaments from body parts of endemic animals, suggesting modern humans integrated exotic faunas and other novel resources into their symbolic world as they colonized the biogeographically unique regions southeast of continental Eurasia.

Source: Early human symbolic behavior in the Late Pleistocene of Wallacea

Other news reports listed below:
Researchers uncover prehistoric art and ornaments from Indonesian ‘Ice Age’

Prehistoric jewellery found in Indonesian cave challenges view early humans less advanced

Ice age art in Indonesia reveals how spiritual life transformed en route to Australia

In Ice Age Indonesia, People Were Making Jewelry and Art

Researchers uncover prehistoric art and ornaments from Indonesian ‘Ice Age’

Philippine Gold to go on display in New York

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By Jobers Bersales (Inquirer Philippines) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

A trove of Philippine gold from Butuan province, usually on display at the Ayala Museum in the Philippines, will be exhibited at the Asia Society in New York from this September to January next year. Having seen them before I must say the gold pieces are quite exquisite, but it is a pity there is very little contextual information to them.

By Jobers Bersales (Inquirer Philippines) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Jobers Bersales (Inquirer Philippines) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Ancient PH gold exhibit heads to New York
ABS-CBN News, 15 July 2015

About 120 gold artifacts mostly from the golden age of Butuan, a city in the Southern Philippines, will be on display at the Asia Society Museum in New York beginning September 11.

Ancient Filipinos in Kingdom of Butuan had a sophisticated culture with a fine taste for handcrafted gold items during the 10th and 11th centuries.

“The Filipinos, before they were called Filipino, were making beautiful, artistic, exquisite jewelry from gold. So it’s like King Tut of Egypt being discovered and coming to the Metropolitan Museum. Everybody went to see it. This is our King Tut,” said Community leader and philanthropist Loida Nicolas-Lewis.

Organizers of “Philippine Gold: Treasures of Forgotten Kingdoms” were recently at the Philippine Consulate in New York to promote the exhibit.

“We are aiming for spectacular, not just a special this fall,” Tom Nagorski, executive vice president of Asia Society said.

Full story here.

Vietnamese jewelery on display in Hue

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Bronze bracelets from the Dong Son culture. Source: Viet Nam Net 20150510

A range of jewelry from Vietnam’s past is on display at the Hue Museum of Royal Antiquities.

Bronze bracelets from the Dong Son culture. Source: Viet Nam Net 20150510

Bronze bracelets from the Dong Son culture. Source: Viet Nam Net 20150510

Rare ancient jewelry of the Vietnamese in pictures
Viet Nam Net, 10 May 2015

More than 100 jewelry items thousands of years old were on display at the exhibition “Vietnam’s ancient jewelry” in Hue recently.

The exhibits are selected from the old jewelry collections of the Center for Preservation of Hue Relics and the National History Museum. The exhibition introduced a fairly comprehensive overview of the art of jewelry from prehistory to the Nguyen Dynasty (19th century).

From bracelets, gloves, and bronze belts of the Dong Son culture (2,000 to 2,500 years ago) to earrings, stone, agate, and glass beads of Sa Huynh culture were introduced at the exhibition. This is a glove with bronze bells of the Dong Son culture.

Full story here.

Siam Society Lecture: Ancient Jewellery of Myanmar from Prehistory to Pyu Period

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Another lecture at the Siam Society, featuring the ancient jewelry of Myanmar.


Ancient Jewellery of Myanmar from Prehistory to Pyu Period
by Terence Tan
Venue: The Siam Society, Bangkok, Thailand
Date: 4 June 2015
Time: 7.30pm

This book traces the ornaments and artefacts, which brought about the changes in beliefs, rituals, social and cultural aspects of early Myanmar, from the prehistoric to the proto-historical period, and cultural links between China and Myanmar. Links between China and Myanmar are corroborated by bronze artefacts and stone beads from the Samon River Valley, the Bronze-Iron Transition culture that flourished c. 700 BCE-100 CE. Beads from the Samon are linked to the Western Zhou Dynasty of China (11th-8th century BCE). The tiger with cub in the mouth is an iconic artefact from this period. Although the Samon figurines are of different material, due to the wider availability of semi-precious stones in Myanmar, they bear stylistic affinities with the Chinese version.

Gradual changes in the Samon River Valley culture led to the Pyu Era (200 BCE-900 CE), a contemporary of Dvaravati (Thailand), Champa (Vietnam) and Funan (Cambodia). The Pyu were thus a bridge between the Bronze-Iron Transition Age and Myanmar’s early Buddhist period, one of the earliest Buddhist cultures of Southeast Asia. In addition to ancient ramparts and a few inscriptions, there is a wealth of excavated material, from Buddha effigies to golden plates, jewellery, coins and other moveable artefacts. This transition to the Buddhist period shifts the focus from China to India and links with the crossroads of East Asia, visible in the Pyu’s gold dice beads decorated with auspicious symbols and the main events in the Buddha’s life.

Champa jewellery handed to museum

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A cache of 9-10th century Champa artefacts consisting of jewelery and ceramics were handed over to the Quang Ngai Province Museum by the police. The antiquities were found by a man from a local village who had dug them up and sold them to a “strange man” before being caught by the police.

Champa antiques handed over to museum
Vietnam Net Bridge, 24 April 2009
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Boljoon town plaza – an ancient burial ground

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Gold jewelery in an archaeological dig is always great news, but it’s the context of the find that gives us a greater understanding of the past. Gold jewelery found in a burial ground near the Boljoon Church in Cebu tells us something about the mortuary practices of the past – this practice was stopped with the arrival of the Spaniards. I wonder why – perhaps they wanted the gold for themselves? Read a related story about the Cebu digs here.

Boljoon Church
photo credit: Cheonsa

Church digging yields gold jewelry

Manila Bulletin, 17 April 2009

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