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
Teachers ask DepEd to include Maitum jars in History books
Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews / 27 October 2002

Maitum anthropomorphic jars. Photo courtesy of the National Museum

MAITUM, Sarangani -- This town plays a very important role in determining the prehistory not only of Mindanao and the Philippines but also of Southeast Asia.

But while the archaeological find here is now known worldwide, majority of the residents here are not aware of this.

In fact, for most teachers and other town officials here, the forum last Thursday with archaeologist Dr. Eusebio Dizon of the National Museum was the first time they learned of the archaeological find here 11 years ago of anthropomorphic potteries dating back to the Metal Age, a find that Dizon describes as "unparalleled in Southeast Asia."

Dizon, Curator I of the Archaeology Division and Head of the Underwater Archaeology Section of the National Museum and Director of the Archaeological Studies Program (ASP) of the University of the Philippines, headed the team 11 years that did the archaeological study of the now famous anthropomorphic secondary burial jars in Pinol Cave, also in Maitum town.

At the end of the forum, the teachers said the Department of Education (DepEd) should include the Maitum Jars in the history textbooks because "our students are familiar with the Tabon Cave in Palawan but not Pinol cave here."

This town has 20 elementary schools, four secondary schools and one college.

Adelina Raganit, principal of the Malalag Central Elementary School here told MindaNews after the forum that their students do not know about the Maitum Jars because these are not found in textbooks. "Mas alam pa nila ang Tabon Cave. Sana ilagay naman sa textbook" (They know more about the Tabon Cave. We hope Pinol cave will be included in the textbooks, too).

Dizon spoke at the forum after doing a preliminary study in a cave in Sitio Linao, Barangay Kiambing, which yielded potsherds from various periods, including those that are likely to be 3000 years old.

Jun Ramos, Sarangani Fotos

Few of the predominantly Ilocano-Cebuano-Manobo populace in this town (estimated population: 35,536) understand the significance of the yield in Pinol Cave (formerly known as Ayub Cave), which Dizon refers to as "the most significant cave in Mindanao."

Mayor George Yabes scheduled the forum with Dizon to ensure residents understand the significance of the Maitum find.

The archaeological find at Pinol Cave consists of anthropomorphic burial jars that date back to the Metal Age or nearly 2000 years ago.

The anthropomorphic potteries were designed and formed like human figures with complete facial expressions and used as covers for secondary burial jars. Also found were glass beads and bracelets; shell spoon, scoop, bracelets and pendants; earthenware potteries with incised designs and cut-out foot-rings; and non-anthropomorphic burial jars.

While anthropomorphic pottery had been found in Bacong, Negros in Western Visayas; Huyop-huyopan, Albay in southern Luzon; Palawan and in Kulaman Plateau in Southern Mindanao, the faces depicted in the pottery of Maitum are unique in that, according to authors Dizon and Rey Santiago in the book "Faces from Maitum: The Archaeological Excavation of Ayub Cave," they "are like portraits of distinct individuals or specific dead persons whose remains they guard."

"Some faces are thin with pointed chins and shriveled puckered mouths associated with the toothless or the aged. Other heads wear a smile displaying a full set of teeth. A patch of black paint on the head indicates where hair should be. Others with perforations suggest a more realistic portrayal. Had hemp fiber filled those holes to represent tufts of hair? Who were these people? When, and how did they live?" the authors asked.

Who, indeed, were these people depicted in the anthropomorphic potteries in Maitum? When, and how did they live?

The questions cannot be answered as yet, given the constraints faced by the National Museum team, among them, security, funding, time constraints, absence of laboratory analysis, and the fact that before Dizon's team came, the cave had been "severely disturbed" because a Japanese national financed a digging there in search of gold bars.

At best, the authors said, they can only offer preliminary analysis.

Last year, Dizon told MindaNews he tried to get funds for the Accelerated Mass Spectroscopy (ASM) "which is better and more accurate than the conventional C-14 dating technique for the archaeologically excavated artifacts from this Ayub cave."

Dizon and Santiago wrote that the discovery of the burial jars "is very important in our study of Philippine prehistory. It can provide significant clues and material evidences for the determination of the Maguindanao prehistory."

But both said the research "must not end here. Other links must be found and forged in order to piece together our past."

A link could have been found within Maitum itself, in the cave in Sitio Linao which Dizon and his team visited on Wednesday and Thursday last week but the cave has been "heavily disturbed" by treasure diggers.