National Museum to send proposed budget for more studies of Sagel Cave

The team, headed by archaeologist Nida Cuevas, completed its preliminary onsite fieldwork on April 19 and in a press statement dated April 20 recommended that “a program for conservation/protection, archaeological exploration and excavation of sites in the Pinol area is necessary.”

The team recommended that “a program for conservation/protection, archaeological exploration and excavation of sites in the Pinol area is necessary.”

Sarangani Governor Miguel Dominguez asked the team to send a proposed budget for the project when the latter paid him a courtesy call before leaving for Manila. When they arrived April 15, Dominguez was not around but Vice Governor Steve Chiongbian.

The two and Maitum Mayor Elsie Lucille Perrett and Pinol barangay captain Lamia Mala  have ensured the cave would be protected and secured.

The provincial and local governments together helped spend for the expenses of the team, the former spending for the plane tickets and other related expenses while the latter took care of accommodation and food in Maitum.

The team would not have been able to come quicker if the province had waited for the National Museum to deploy a team. But Dominguez and Perrett knew it was a race against time, a race against cave looters and treasure hunters.

The proposed budget for the exploration and excavation of Sagel Cave is important so the province can look for fund sources. The National Museum, unfortunately, has a meager budget allocation.

Dominguez also agreed to an earlier proposal for the province to  send two scholars to the University of the Philippines in Diliman to take up a one-year Diploma in Archaeology, an announcement welcomed by those who had been proposing this since 2002 – albeit the original proposal was not only for the year-long Diploma but for the two-year Masters in Archaeology.

Sagel Cave was accidentally discovered in Sitio Sagel, Barangay Pinol while quarrying on April 5.

The team’s preliminary report said the cave is “possibly contemporaneous with Ayub Cave” (also known as Pinol Cave) which is a few hundred meters away and from where anthropomorphic secondary burial jars dating back to the Metal Age or nearly 2,000 years ago, were found in 1991.

But “further analysis of associated materials and relevant data is required to confirm this,” the press statement released by Nida Cuevas, team leader, said.

Cuevas, Museum Researcher II or the Archaeology Division of the National Musem was accompanied in Maitum by team members Alexandra de Leon, Museum Researcher I, Archaeology Division; Eduardo Bersamira, Museum Researcher I, Archaeology Division; Jonathan Jacar, Museum Technician II, Archaeology Division; and Ed Sarmiento, Museum Researcher I, Cultural Properties Division.

“A significant observation from the investigation is the absence of anthropomorphic pottery from the archaeological excavation,” the team said, adding “this puts in question the context of the anthropomorphic pottery recovered from the present cave surface.”

But the team also acknowledged that “considering that almost half of Sagel cave has been removed due to quarrying operations in the area, the absence (or presence) of anthropomorphic pottery from Sagel is not conclusively established.”

The team also said “further studies are necessary to determine whether such differences indicate the presence of different cultural groups in the vicinity or represent status (e.g., social, political, economic) among Metal Age societies in the Pinol area.”

“Studies of Metal Age societies in Mindanao are very limited and the Pinol area of Sarangani Province is very significant in providing scientific data on this subject,” the tea, said.

The team recommended that “the Pinol area (both caves and open areas) be protected from earth moving activities including quarrying, treasure hunting, and other similar activities.”

The municipality of Maitum on April 15 unanimously passed a resolution declaring Sagel Cave an archaeological site. (MindaNews)