Other stories on the Maitum caves 
Archaeologists stir up interest on Maitum's ancient artifacts
“Maitum Jars” to be declared as National Cultural Heritage
The find inside Pinol Cave
Maitum Cave artifacts likely 3000 years old
Teachers ask DepEd to include Maitum jars in History books
Collectors urged to turn over antique jars to Nat'l Museum
Sarangani hosts symposium on Maitum archaeological finds
    N E W S  --  Archaeological finds in Maitum
Archaeologists stir up interest on Maitum's ancient artifacts
Germelina A. Lacorte / MindaNews / 3 December 2002

ALABEL, Sarangani -- Anthropologists are stirring up interest on ancient artifacts in the largely fishing and copra-producing Sarangani town of Maitum, after pottery shards believed to date as far back as 3000 years were found in a cave near the town hall.

The latest find, along with the anthropomorphic jars found in another cave in Maitum 11 years ago, is expected to shed more light on the pre-history of Mindanao and the entire Southeast Asian region.

Dr. Eusebio Dizon, anthropologist and Curator 1 of the National Museum archaeology division, urged students and teachers to take keener interest in these artifacts which "provide our people with links to the past."

"You just don't know how lucky you are to have such (cultural) treasures right in your own backyard," Dizon told students in a symposium here last week.

"These treasures are worth their value in gold," he said.

Dizon had led a team of archaeologists who unearthed the rare anthropomorphic jars -- jars with covers designed after human heads and human faces -- in a cave in Maitum's barangay Pinol 11 years ago.

On October 23-25 this year, Dizon also led a team of archaeologists to do initial gathering of artifacts in Sitio Linao, Barangay Kiambing in Maitum. The cave yielded potsherds -- some of them believed to be as old as 3000 years.

Dizon said the sherds are still being assembled and studied at the National Museum. Samples of the sherds are to be sent abroad for precise dating.

"It's not yet too late (to study anthropology)," Dizon told students in the symposium, "We still have much work to do reconstructing the past and I encourage you to become part of the team of archaeologists who take interest in studying the artifacts that were found right in your own backyard."

He called on student volunteers from the area to be part of National Museum workers and researchers who are studying, re-assembling and putting together the Maitum pottery sherds. "We are pasting them up again like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle," Dizon said.

"Based on these pieces that we find, we hope to know more about the people who used to own them, determine the social structure, the political system and the economic and cultural life they used to have," he said.

Fr. Albert Alejo, social anthropologist and executive director of the Mindanawon Initiatives for Cultural Dialogues (Mindanawon), urged artists, poets and philosophers to take a look at the rare archaeological finds to "reflect on what these artifacts mean and hear what our ancestors are trying to tell us through these artifacts."

"While science can help shed light on the precise dates and uses of these artifacts, it's usually the poets and the artists who can perceive their meaning," said Alejo, a poet-priest who obtained his doctorate in social anthropology from a London University.

Maitum Mayor George Yabes said the artifacts, which generated excitement among archaeologists in 11 countries where Dizon had lectured about the rare finds, were just taken for granted by farmers in the area. "We could never recognize them under our very noses," Yabes said after the symposium.

"Why would anyone be interested in sherds of old potteries?," he asked.

But Dizon, who had lectured in Thailand, Indonesia, Germany and Taiwan on the archaeological finds from Maitum, said the finds form part of the entire Southeast Asian cultural heritage which dates back before the time of Christ.

Alejo said the archaeological finds will provide the people a link to the past so that "we can better understand the present and we can fully chart our future as a people."

"This is not just about the past nor is it just about some ancient people," he said, "This is about us and where we came from. Not until we know our past could we know fully well who we are. We need to know who we are to become more attuned to the ancestral energies of our own people so that we can express these through our music, our pottery and our poetry. Only then, can we create our own civilization," Alejo said.

"Before the archaeologists came, nobody cared about these old pottery shards," recalled Mayor Yabes. "Farmers in the area only used to care about how to earn a living."

The Linao cave where the pottery shards were recently recovered was already heavily disturbed by treasure hunters who dug inside the cave for gold and other treasures.

Dizon expressed disappointment that the cave was "90% disturbed," rendering it very difficult, if not impossible, for archaeologists to determine what the cave looked like and where the pots were placed inside.

Dizon said archaeologists wanted to establish the exact uses of the cave to enable them to evaluate the artifacts from that perspective.

The Pinol cave, where the anthropomorphic jars were found 11 years ago, is believed to have been a secondary burial ground of the ancient people.

"From now on, government should ensure that these caves and these artifacts should be protected by all means at all cost," said Sarangani Governor Miguel Escobar.

"It's good to know our own beginning as a people," he said.

Yabes said people have started opening their minds since the archaeologists started explaining what the potsherds meant. "Word has spread around," he said.

"Teachers now want to include the Maitum finds in the textbook that they use. It's a pity, students are taught about the artifacts found in other parts of the country without even knowing they have such priceless finds right in their own backyard," he said.

During the symposium last week, even farmers and barangay captains came to show their growing interest, said Yabes.