Archaeology in the Philippines


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If you are a person who has the interest of excavating ancient relics and artifacts that belongs to the early people in the past then you should take Archaeology as a profession. This is a “scientific field of study” about everything that are related to the “past”.

Archaeologists are actually just like THs (treasure hunters) where excavation is also a major part of their job. They often dig the ground for buried objects applying some techniques not to damage any relics they found. Every objects they found is for the sole purpose of studying them unlike THs who only wants to make profit from their recoveries.

As a TH myself in the Philippines, I made an agreement to my crew that all “treasures and antiques” with cultural values which originally belonged to the country must be surrendered to the Philippine Archaeology Institutes or Museums.

The main reason why archaeologists are recovering and collecting remnants of the past is to “learn or gather pieces of information about them”. Through the advancement of our technology, scientists have now the capability to extract information from them. Some of these amazing technologies are DNA testing, Radiocarbon and Thermoluminescense dating, Dendrochronology and etc…

Old Antique Jars

How Philippine Archaeology Started in the Philippines?



Before the Spaniards came to colonize the Philippines, there were already early Filipinos who originally inhabited the country. They were utterly rich in cultures where they left a lot of amazing handcrafted objects reminding us their very existence in the past.

Here are the following archaeologists who started archaeological researches and excavations in the Philippines:

1. Alfred Marche (1881)

The person who first started archaeology in the Philippines was “Alfred Marche”. He was a French traveler and explorer who visited the Philippines in 1881. As a traveler, he spent most of his time traveling various regions of the country such as Luzon, Catanduanes and Marinduque.

One of Marche’s greatest findings was a cave known as the “Pamintaan” located at the region of Marinduque. According to his research, the cave was a burial site. On their further exploration, Marche’s group discovered a lot of interesting antiques such as Chinese urns, vases, gold ornaments and many other strange objects that belonged to the early Filipinos.

2. Carl E. Guthe (1922 to 1924)

“Carl E. Guthe” was a professional archaeologists who visited the Philippines in 1922 to 1924. He was sent by the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor to conduct a research in the country.

As a trained archaeologist, Guthe uncovered various precious artifacts such as ceramics (dating back from the early 10th to 20th century), bracelets, glass, stone beads and gold ornaments. Most of these items were recovered by Guthe from an ancient grave site.

3. Henry Otley Beyer (1926)

“Henry Otley Beyer” conducted his archaeological surveys and investigations in the Philippines particularly in Luzon, Palawan and Visayan islands. It was on 1926 when he started working on the field at Novaliches (La Mesa Dam) along with his Filipino assistant “Ricardo Galang”. Through their efforts, they were able to discover a major “prehistoric site”.

4. Olov R.T Janse (1940)

In 1940, Harvard University sponsored “Olov R.T Janse” for an archaeological field work in the Philippines. As a result, he was able to excavate “three ancient burial sites” consisting of 70 total graves at Catalagan, Batangas.

5. Tadao Kano (1944 to 1945)

“Tadao Kano” was not an archaeologist but simply an ordinary Japanese civilian assigned in the Philippines to protect all museums in the country during the last two years of the Second World War.

6. Robert B. Fox and Wilhelm G. Solheim (1950’s)

When World War 2 finally ended, foreign archaeologists resumed their research and excavations in the country. It was on the 1950’s when two American archaeologists, “Robert B. Fox” and “Wilhelm G. Solheim” led a major operation. Along with them were their Filipino associates and students namely E. Arsenio Manuel, Avelino Legaspi, Alfredo E. Evangelista and Jesus T. Peralta.

7. Bill Solheim (1949 to 1968)

In 1949, “Bill Solheim” came to the Philippines to aid Beyer in recovering ancient Filipino artifacts. He actually did a lot of excavations in the country with many successful recorded recoveries.

In the late 1950, Solheim discovered an ancient site at Calatagan, Batangas. However, he turned over this project to Beyer without even having the chance to study it on his own.

In 1951 to 1968, Solheim spent most of his time excavating at the regions of Masbate. His first project was the “Kalanay Cave Site” situated at the west coast of Masbate. In 1954, he uncovered a burial site filled with jars containing dead human remains. His final work ended in 1968 when he surveyed and excavated a limestone tower in Masbate.

Interesting Archaeological Findings in Different Regions of the Philippines



Ancient Filipinos did not just situated themselves on one certain particular region of the country. Archaeologists have found several physical evidences that they consisted of different tribes who lived on their own respective territories.

Archaeological Findings in the Regions of Luzon

At the northern region of Cagayan River, Beyer uncovered a collection of “Pleistocene faunal remains” that caught the attention of “G.H Ralph von Koegniswald” to immediately travel in the Philippines.

In December 1957, Koegnigswald conducted a field survey at the west city of Tuguegarao (between Rio Chico and Cagayan River). He was able to collect a number of fossilized Pleistocene mammals and stone artifacts. Studies revealed that these objects are tools made from “quartzite” and “sandstones”.

In 1970’s, the “National Museum of the Philippines” conducted a major exploration and excavation in the region of Penablanca (Karst). Their operation was a huge success because they uncovered “more than 110 ancient caves”. Some of them are the Pedro Pagulayan Cave, Musang Cave and Callao Cave. Inside these caves, archaeologists discovered a lot of interesting artifacts. Through Radiocarbon dating, results indicate that the early people who dwelled or inhabited that place started about 12, 000 years ago.

In 2001, “Alfred F. Pawlik” led a group of archaeologists (Archaeological Studies Program) and excavated “Arubo 1” at General Tinio, Nueva Ecija. They successfully recovered several Paleolithic stone tools such as “hand axes”. Some archaeological expert claims that these hand axes have huge similarities to the hand axes discovered in South China dating back to 800, 000 years B.P.

Archaeological Findings in Visayas and Mindanao

At the Northeastern part of Mindanao, archaeologists of the “Philippine National Museum” organized an excavation at the Butuan region. The result of their effort led into the discovery of the “ancient boats” (the locals call it “balanghay”). They are actually boats designed for travelling long distances in the past.

In 1991, another group of Filipino archaeologists made an astounding discovery at the South Cotabato region. They found several “anthropomorphic burial jars” with engraved faces inside the cave of Pinol, Maitum (province of Sarangani).

Archaeological Findings under Philippine Waters

Archaeologists are not just limited in exploring the land. They also have the permit to explore the underwater areas of the Philippine coastal regions. Unfortunately, Philippine archaeologists do not have the necessary equipment and technologies that could aid them on their exploration. Due to this reason, the Philippine National Museum released a statement that they are open to work along with other interested foreign archaeological groups.

Archaeological Study Program in the Philippines



Are you interested to become an archaeologist in the Philippines?

Working Archeologist

University of the Philippines (UP) is actually offering “Archaeological Studies Program” (ASP) to anyone who is interested on this scientific field of study. Aside from UP, other schools that offers the same study program are Ateneo de Manila, San Carlos University (Cebu) and Siliman University (Dumaguete).

I suggest that it is best to contact those universities to learn more about the archaeological study programs that they are offering.

Katipunan Arkeologist ng Pilipinas, Inc. (KAPI)

U.P. Archaeological Studies Program already produced a number of graduates. Among their reputable graduates include Grace Barretto, Tony Nazareno, Jun Cayron and Ma. Josefina Belmonte. Due to them, they formed an organization called “Katipunan Arkeologist ng Pilipinas, Inc.” or “KAPI”. This is a “non-stock” or “non-profit” organization dedicated to all archaeologists in the Philippines. Thus, you can also contact them to seek some guidance in the field of archaeology.