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The Treasures of Maitum, Sarangani
Part 10 of a series.
Following our perfectly healthy breakfast cooked with love by the Ramos family, we proceeded to the Maitum Municipal Hall a few blocks away to learn about Maitum’s past.
The facade of the Maitum Municipal Hall features floor-to-ceiling glass giving an interesting optical illusion.
At the second level of the municipal building is a mini archaeological and ethnographic exhibit aptly dubbed as The Treasures of Maitum. Most of the text below were grabbed from the exhibit.
Arnelito Ramirez (Kuya RR), Maitum Tourism Operations Assistant, guided us through the exhibit
Few places in the Philippines are blessed with exceptional archaeological and ethnographic treasures and Maitum is one of these places. The archaeological discovery of unique earthenware anthropomorphic jars in Ayub Cave during the early 1990s astounded Philippine and South East Asian archaeologists not only for their exceptional detail in depicting humans but mostly for providing insight into the Metal Age communities who inhabited the Pinol area of Maitum about 2000 years ago. This exhibit presents some of the archaeological materials recovered from the Ayub Cave excavations.
Apart from the archaeological specimens, the exhibit also showcases ethnographic specimens from the T’boli and Maguindanao ethnolinguistic groups. The former occupies the interior and the latter inhabits the coastal areas of Maitum. Both groups are known for their textile, music and brassware traditions.
It must be said however that the prehistoric Metal Age cultures and the present ethnolinguistic groups showcased here are distinct. Currently there is no evidence that establishes biological continuity between prehistoric and present populations.
The exhibit’s centerpiece is an intricately-detailed diorama which features a replica of the Ayub Cave and within it are the various heads of burial jars which represent specific deceased persons in differing emotional states.
Archaeological finds from Ayub Cave in Maitum have revealed a complex Metal Age community inhabiting Maitum about 2000 years ago. The finds include a large number of exceptionally-crafted anthropomorphic (human-form) secondary burial jars. Secondary burial jars are used to contain bones of a dead person after his or her remains from a prior burial have sufficiently decomposed.
Anthropomorphic pottery have been found in several Philippine sites including Bacong in Negros Oriental, Hoyop-Hoyopan Cave in Albay, and Manunggul Cave in the Tabon Cave Complex in Palawan. Anthropomorphic limestone burial jars have also been found at Lebak in the Kulaman Plateau of Sultan Kudarat. These previously discovered anthropomorphic jars however, that are characterized by sketchy facial shapes, are unlike the Maitum Anthropomorphic jars. The Maitum Anthropomorphic jars represent facial features in meticulous detail so much that each jar is unique and appear to portray distinct individuals. The artisans who crafted these jars show men and women in varied emotional states such as outright grief, elation and sadness. Reflecting the cultural traditions practiced by these Metal Age groups about 2000 years ago, the anthropomorphic jars also exhibit several adornment practices such as ear plugging, teeth filling and body tattooing.
S-Ex Tourists listen intently as Kuya RR gives us an overview of the Treasures of Maitum
Although Ayub Cave was destroyed by treasure hunters, archaeologists were still able to carry out archaeological excavations here in 1991, 1993, and 1995. Only 2 complete vessels and 29 heads were recovered though thousands of pottery fragments were excavated. Other archaeological material recovered from the excavation include human skeletal remains contained in the jars, grave goods such as glass bracelets, shell scoop, metal implement, glass and clay beads, worked shell, and small earthenware vessels containing small bones.
Because the findings from Ayub Cave are highly significant, the National Museum of the Philippines in 2009 has declared the Pinol area of Maitum as an important Cultural Property.
(…to be continued)