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
Maitum Cave artifacts likely 3000 years old
Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews / 27 October 2002

This potsherd found in a cave in Maitum, Sarangani, may be 3000 years old. Jun Ramos, Sarangani Fotos

MAITUM, Sarangani -- A cave located seven kilometers from the town hall here has yielded potsherds from various periods, including those that are likely 3000 years old, archaeologists from the National Museum who visited the site here, said.

But treasure diggers have heavily disturbed the caved, rendering it very difficult, if not impossible, for archaeologists to reconstruct that era in the prehistory not only of Mindanao and the Philippines but also of Southeast Asia.

Dr. Eusebio Dizon and Prof. Rey Santiago of the National Museum, who conducted preliminary studies at the cave in Sitio Linao, Barangay Kiambing for two days last week, were dismayed to see the damage wrought on the cave by treasure diggers. No complete pot was found, only shards.

Dizon said 90% of the cave was heavily disturbed. "Na-disappoint ako. (I am disappointed). We cannot even establish the function of the cave," he told a forum attended by town officials last Thursday.

Old-time residents in the area said the cave has seven chambers, the farther part of which reportedly had drawings on the walls, but the National Museum Team, including this reporter, managed to reach only three as the entrance to the other chambers had been blocked by sandbags and timber, the original cave floor already covered several meters high with limestone from the tunnel diggings.

Among the potsherds found in the cave in Barangay Kiambing. Samples of the shards would be sent abroad by the National Museum for precise dating. Jun Ramos, Sarangani Fotos

Dizon said it would have been best if the cave had not been disturbed so the exact positions of the artifacts and their associated materials could be studied "otherwise, they will become useless pieces for scientific archaeological study."

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 archaeological team 11 years ago of the now famous anthropomorphic secondary burial jars in Pinol Cave, also in Maitum town. The team included Santiago, Museum Researcher II at the National Museum who also teaches at the ASP.

The "Maitum Jars," as they are referred to now, are "unparalleled in Southeast Asia" in that it is an exceptional archaeological assemblage. The nearly 2000-year old anthropomorphic jars of Maitum, bearing radiocarbon dates of "1930 plus or minus 50 BP (calibrated date of 5 BC to AD 225) and 1830 plus or minus 60 BP (calibrated date of AD 70 to 370)," are unique in that "they are like portraits of distinct individuals, of specific dead persons whose remains they guard," Dizon and Santiago said in their book, "Faces from Maitum." ('Maitum Jars' story in  'More News.')

Dizon, who was sent a photograph of two shards taken from outside the Linao cave in late September, told MindaNews that they were "probably much much older than the Maitum anthropomorphic pots" and "appear to have been from the Late New Stone period, from at least 3000 years ago."

Dr. Eusebio Dizon, curator 1 at the National Museum and head of the Archaeological Studies Program of the University of the Philippines. Jun Ramos, Sarangani Fotos

Dizon said that based on his research on the pictures sent, the shards have "similarities with some of the Sabah pots from Bukit Tengkorak, where I based my date of 3000 BP. or 1000 BC."

"But of course they may have been earlier or later than this date. The Maitum pots are only 5 BC to 350 AD," he said.

"But we need more archaeological context and datable samples from them," he said.

At the end of the two-day visit at the cave here, Dizon said it appears like the yield from the cave cut across several periods, some of them earlier than the Maitum Jars, the others much later.

He told the forum at the municipal gym last Thursday that the shards depicting sketches of people (main photo above) could be older than the Maitum Jars because the latter were already portraits done in clay of individual persons while the former were still sketches of people.

Dizon added there is no evidence as yet of the presence of anthropomorphic pots or that the cave is a burial site like Pinol Cave was, but the cave in Linao may likely have been a ritual site.

Dizon said samples of shards will have to be sent abroad to get a more precise dating.

Dr. Eusebio Dizon (left), led a team last week to do a preliminary study on the cave in Barangay Kiambing, Matium town which yielded shards from various periods, including those likely to be 3000 years old. Jun Ramos, Sarangani Fotos

The shards were discovered last month when Mayor George Yabes, who had been pushing for a municipal museum to house some of the artifacts from the Pinol Cave, sent geologists to look around town for clay samples that would be best for a ceramics livelihood project.

The shards were shown to Serafin Ramos, Jr., Sarangani provincial information officer, who sought the assistance of MindaNews and social anthropologist Fr. Albert Alejo to send photographs of the shards to Dizon. MindaNews and Alejo joined a municipal team visit to the cave on October 8, collected more shards and sent Dizon yet another set of photographs of shards, including incised pieces, which could have belonged to the Early Metal Age.

Dizon's team brought to the National Museum several plastic bags of shards collected by the municipal team outside the cave and the shards dug inside the cave by Dizon, Santiago, ASP graduate student Eliza Romualdez-Valtos, a team from Maitum town and this reporter.

Dizon also urged Yabes and other officials to continue protecting Pinol Cave, the Linao cave and other caves in town because "the cave is not the place for Yamashita gold hunters but our own gold in terms of our heritage." Yabes vowed to ensure the caves would be protected.

Dizon said the best that can be done about the cave in Linao is to continue to protect it and to continue collecting whatever shards can still be found so they can be studied and dated.

The team also hopes a complete pot can be reconstructed from among the shards collected.