Philippine Artifacts

Categories: Philippines

The Manunggul Jar is evidence of the spirituality of indigenous Filipinos.

The Manunggul container is cultural treasure found in the early 1960’s in Manunggul Cave, Lipuun Point, Palawan which is categorized as a secondary burial container, which indicates that only the bones of the corpse are put within. It has an elaborate design consisting of scrolls and curves on the leading cover and is painted with hematite – a kind of mineral that produces red coloring once subjected to heat. Nevertheless, the most remarkable part of the container is its cover which features two souls cruising to the afterworld in a death boat.

The figure at the back is holding a guiding paddle, although the blade of the paddle is missing. The one in front is believed to be the soul of the individual whose remains are inside the jar, given that it has its arms folded across its chest which was the typical position of a remains being prepared for burial.

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It likewise appears like the figures are wearing fabric bands connected over the crowns of their heads, more evidence of indigenous burial practices in the Philippines. The burial jar which is unparalleled in Southeast Asia and thought about as the work of a master potter, symbolizes the belief of early Filipinos in life after death. It is dated to the late Neolithic Duration, about 890-710 B.C.

Laguna Copperplate Engraving

The Laguna Copperplate Engraving is the oldest written file ever found in the Philippines, and among very few available artifacts of precolonial times.

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According to the engraving on the plate, it was composed throughout the Saka age 822 (which equates to April 21, 900 CE). Parts of the inscription are in Malay, Javanese, and Tagalog, along with Sanskrit, which is not part of the Southeast Asian linguistic group.

The copperplate is now in the posession of the National Museum of the Philippines.


The copperplate was a file from a chief of Tundun saying that he has pardoned a person called Namwaran of a debt of 1 kati and 8 suwarna (926.4 grams) of gold.

The text has been translated as follows:

“Long Live! Year of Siyaka 822, month of Waisaka, according to astronomy. The fourth day of the waning moon, Monday. On this occasion, Lady Angkatan, and her brother whose name is Buka, the children of the Honourable Namwaran, were awarded a document of complete pardon from the Commander in Chief of Tundun, represented by the Lord Minister of Pailah, Jayadewa. By this order, through the scribe, the Honourable Namwaran has been forgiven of all and is released from his debts and arrears of 1 katî and 8 suwarna before the Honourable Lord Minister of Puliran, Ka Sumuran by the authority of the Lord Minister of Pailah.

Because of his faithful service as a subject of the Chief, the Honourable and widely renowned Lord Minister of Binwangan recognized all the living relatives of Namwaran who were claimed by the Chief of Dewata, represented by the Chief of Medang. Yes, therefore the living descendants of the Honourable Namwaran are forgiven, indeed, of any and all debts of the Honourable Namwaran to the Chief of Dewata. This, in any case, shall declare to whomever henceforth that on some future day should there be a man who claims that no release from the debt of the Honourable…”

Maitum Anthropomorphic Potteries

In 1991, archeologists discovered anthropomorphic secondary burial jars in Ayub Cave, Piñol. Maitum, Sarangani Province, in Mindanao, Philippines. Since this sensational finding, a number of archaeological excavations were conducted to recover these important artifacts. These excavation projects
were either government or privately sponsored.

These burial jars are made of earthenware and characterized by their design and form that looks like or suggests human figures with complete or partial facial characteristics. These are earthenware potteries with incisions and cut-out foot-rings. These humanlike forms were associated with metal implements like bracelets. Some jars are decorated with glass beads and shell scoop, spoon, and pendants. Among the anthropomorphic vessels are plain non-anthropomorphic burial jars.

According to scientists, these secondary burial jars date back to the Metal Age. The artifacts were dated to 830 +/-60 B.P. (by a calibrated date of A.D. 70 to 370) and 1920 +/- 50 B.P. (by a calibrated date of 5 B.C. to 225 A.D.). Scientists determined the age of the jars by doing radiocarbon date tests on the soot samples taken from a small earthenware vessel. This small vessel was found inside one of the larger burial jar.

Angono Petroglyphs

The Angono Petroglyphs are 127 images carved into a wall of rock, and are estimated to date back to 3,000 BC. They were discovered in 1965 by Carlos “Botong” Francisco along the boundaries of Angono and Binangonan, Rizal. It is considered thye earliest prehistoric rock drawings. The site is a rock shelter or a shallow cave about 63 meters wide, 8 meters deep and 5 meters at its highest point.

One hundred twenty seven human figures scattered on the wall were made by engraving lines using a piece of stone on the surface of the rock shelter. The cuts vary from ten centimeters down to faint lines figures. The figures consist of circular heads, with or without necks set on a rectangular or v-shaped body. The linear arms and legs are usually flexed. Some incisions on the rock wall are triangles, rectangles and circles. Rock art is closely linked with a system of belief of a particular group of people. It is symbolic, not decorative.

According to Filipino anthropologist Jesus Peralta, “The engraved drawings are made without any reference to a baseline, suggesting that these were made during different points in time through a long period.”[ In 1996, the petroglyphs were included in the World Monuments Watch, drawing attention to the rock art’s conservation. Since their discovery, many of the carvings have been eroded, or destroyed by vandalism.

Butuan Palaeograph

The Butuan Palaeograph, also known as the Butuan Silver Strip is a piece of metal with inscriptions found in Butuan province in mid-1970s by a team of archaeologists from the National Museum. Treasure hunters who were looking for old ceramics and gold ornaments discovered this metal strip inside a wooden coffin. Coffins of the same characteristics, which dated back to the 14th and 15th centuries, were found in the site, however, according to Dr. Jesus Peralta, found inside were human fossils with artificially deformed skulls – a practice limited to Southern Philippines and unpopular in Luzon.

Because of the similarities found between the coffins, it is reasonable for the archaeologists to assume that the latter came from that same era. But debates arose regarding the origin of the said artifact, but until now, it is considered to belong to Butuan where it was found. Dr. Boechari of Indonesia, said Peralta, identified the writings as very close to a Javanese script that existed from 12th to 15th century. This yet-to-be-decipher Butuan palaeograph is now in the hands of Proceso Gonzales, the city engineer of Butuan.

Calatagan Pot

The Calatagan Pot, excavated by treasure hunters in 1961, is considered to be the first pre-Spanish colonization artifact with traces of indigenous writing. Discovered at Calatagan, Batangas, the scripts are oriented in a left-to-right manner around the mouth of the pot which are separated by marks of five or seven symbols. Studies conducted in the Calatagan Pot arrived at a belief that its scripts is a form of Tanaga – a four-versed poetry with no rhyme – or a Mangyan Ambahan – a type of chanted poetry of seven syllables.

The Butuan Ivory Seal

Shown on the right is an ivory seal from Butuan. The upper representation is how a wax impression from the tool would look like. The lower view shows the face of the ivory seal except that it has been flipped (mirror image) to show the writing in its correct orientation. The combination of the positive impression and the negative but flipped view gives a better idea of what the writing looks like than either one alone.

The ivory seal’s provenance is unknown to me. Antoon Postma reports that it was shown to him by Dr. Angel Bautista in 1990 at a conference in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. He says that the seal was in Bautista’s custody but does not know whether it belonged to the National Museum or not. The writing is stylized Kavi, each letter being fitted into an oblong box so that it appears distorted. Postma states that the script is similar to that on the inscription of Puh Serang near Kediri dated 1002. He further indicates that the writing says “Butban,” which presumably stands for “Butwan” or “Butuan” since band w are frequently interchangeable. If this is correct, the three symbols need to transliterate as bu, t-ba, and n. Although I am not very familiar with this specific variation of the script, I find it hard to see the medial form of u in the first symbol and the t-baligature in the second symbol.


The Balangay is the first wooden watercraft ever excavated in Southeast Asia. Also known as the Butuan boat, this artifact is an evidence of early Philippinecraftsmanship and their early attempts to venture in open waters.

The balangay boats were discovered in the late 1970s in Butuan City, Agusan del Norte by archaeologists from the National Museum. There were actually nine balangays recovered in the province. The first balangay, now preserved and displayed in a site museum in Libertad, Butuan City, was radiocarbon tested and was dated at year 320. The second boat was dated to 1250, and is now located at the Maritime Hall of the National Museum in Manila. The third balangay was transferred to the Butuan Regional Museum and is still undergoing preservation. The six other boats, which are yet to be excavated, remain in their original waterlogged condition which is proven to be the best way to preserve the said artifacts.

Bronze Socketed Adzes and Moulds

Socketed adzes made from bronze are characteristic of the Early Metal Age. Bronze socketed adzes were found in Batu Puti and Uyaw Caves in Palawan; Sanga-Sanga in Tawi-Tawi; and Batangas. These tools were dated from 300 B.C. to 500 B.C. Clay molds for casting these bronze adzes recovered in the caves indicate that the people during that time reused damaged bronze implements for making socketed adzes.

The present implement known as wasay (axe) in central Philippines could have come from the bronze socketed adze of the Early Metal Age.

Stone and Shell Adzes

Prehistoric man used ground and polished stone tools. It is believed that a stone adze shaped like an upper front incisor could be found where lightning hit a tree. Today, these stone implements are associated with thunder and lightning. Locally they are called ngipe’t duldug (thunder tooth), tango han linti (lightning tooth), and dila latik (light-ning tongue).

The polished stone adzes that are oval in cross-section were made and used by the people during the Early Neolithic period. Ground stone tools typical of the ‘Quadrangular Adze Culture’ on the other hand, were found in a late Neolithic jar burial site. They are believed to be used for woodworking. These are small, ground and polished adzes of fine grained stones which are rectangular or trapezoidal in cross-section.

The stone adzes were found in Arku Cave, in Penablanca, Cagayan; Duyung Cave in Palawan; Dimolit, Isabela; and Candaba, Pampanga.

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Philippine Artifacts. (2017, May 25). Retrieved from

Philippine Artifacts

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