Diorama of Maitum artifacts opens May 5; Maitum site declared “important cultural property”

Dubbed “Faces of Maitum Expression of Culture Exhibit,” the diorama, however, will feature only replicas of the jars, said Beth Ramos, municipal information officer.

Ramos, however, said they hope to have some of the authentic jars when the town gets to construct its own museum, with the help of the National Museum.

A symposium on the Maitum artifacts will follow the inauguration of the diorama, a project planned more than three years ago, before Mayor George Yabes was killed.

Ramos said National Museum Director Corazon Alvina is expected to grace the inauguration.

The nearly 2,000 year old anthropomorphic pottery, excavated from Ayub Cave in Barangay Pinol in Maitum in 1991, was described as an “exceptional archaeological assemblage” by then National Museum Director Gabriel Casal and according to Dr. Eusebio Dizon, head of the National Museum archaeological team that dug the artifacts, “unparalleled in Southeast Asia.”

The jars, 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 Rey Santiago said in their book, "Faces from Maitum."

The diorama inauguration comes a  month after Maitum Mayor Elsie Lucille Perrett was informed by Alvina, through a letter dated February 16 but received only this month, that the “Pinol Cave Formation and the Surrounding area in Maitum” has been declared an “important cultural property.”

An “important cultural property” under PD 374 (Amending certain sections of RA 4846, otherwise known as the “Cultural Properties Preservation and Protection Act) is defined as “cultural property that has been singled out from among the innumerable cultural properties as having exceptional historical and cultural significance to the Philippines, though not sufficiently outstanding to merit the classification of National Cultural Treasure.”

It was in Ayub Cave in Barangay Pinol where the anthropomorphic secondary burial jars were found in 1991 and near the same area, in Sagel Cave in April 2008, similar artifacts and human remains were found, as well.

“The discovery and systematic archaeological recovery of anthropomorphic pottery mostly secondary burial jars, human remains and ecofacts in Pinol in the municipality of Maitum in Sarangani province, in the early 1990s has significantly placed the area in the Philippine Prehistoric Chronology to the Metal Age period,” the National Museum Declaration No. 7-2008, issued in December 2008 said.

The National Museum’s panel of experts signed the declaration although the space for day in December 2008 was left unfilled. The panel was composed of Wilfredo P. Ronquillo, Scientist II, Curator II – Archaeology Division; Dr. Eusebio Dizon, Scientist III, Curator I – Archaeology Divison; Dr. Jesus Peralta, consultant of the National Commission on the Culture and the Arts; Dr. Victor Paz, director of the Archaeological Studies Program of UP; and Esperanza Gatbonton,  Heritage Conservation Advocate.

The declaration noted, among others, that the anthropomorphic pottery is “remarkably unique, an exceptional archaeological assemblage and is unparalleled in Southeast Asia,” that its potters showed “exceptional sensitivity in their ability to empathize human emotions” and that its design is “characteristic of the Developed Metal Age in the Philippines.”

The declaration also mentioned Sagel Cave also in Barangay Pinol and
accidentally discovered in April last year, as containing artifacts and human remains.

Sagel Cave was declared an “archaeological site” by the Municipal Council of Maitum.

The National Museum declaration said archaeological sites in Pinol and surrounding area “contribute greatly to scientific knowledge not only of the history of Maguindanao area but of Philippine prehistory in general.”

It said the area is “in need of protection from treasure hunting and illegal excavation and should be preserved for the present and future generation of Filipinos.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)