up interest on Maitum's ancient artifacts
Germelina A. Lacorte / MindaNews / 3 December 2002
-- 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
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."
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.
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.
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
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
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
anyone be interested in sherds of old potteries?," he
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.
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.
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.
archaeologists wanted to establish the exact uses of the
cave to enable them to evaluate the artifacts from that
The Pinol cave,
where the anthropomorphic jars were found 11 years ago, is
believed to have been a secondary burial ground of the
"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.
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.
symposium last week, even farmers and barangay captains
came to show their growing interest, said Yabes.