Telephone: (632) 527-03-08, (632) 527-12-35
The Archaeology Division conducts researches on the human past through material remains in the form of artifacts, ecofacts, and ancient structures, with the aim of ordering and describing the events and explaining their meaning.  The focus is on the prehistory of the Philippines and their relation to the rest of the prehistory of Southeast Asia.  The division undertakes researches in two broad areas: Terrestrial and underwater archaeology.
There are a number of support sections:

1. Terrestrial - deals with the archaeological sites on land both open and cave sites.

2. Underwater - deals with all underwater archaeological sites such as shipwrecks of Chinese junks and Spanish Galleon's  prehistoric ports and sites in the Sunda Shelf. and other wrecks 100 years or older.

3. Zoo-Archaeology - Studies the faunal remains recovered from archaeological sites.  Undertakes the collection of  samples of skeletal remains of living creatures to provide an index of faunal skeletal remains for researchers.

4. Records - keeps all the archaeological records  from the field including the specimen inventory records, site discovery forms, logbook, and all field reports, manuscripts, and publications based on the different research activities of the division.

5. Collection Holdings - Takes care of all the specimens collected and keeps a copy of the inventory records.  Takes charge of the storage and maintenance of the specimens.

Permanent Exhibitions
The New National Museum of the Filipino People at the Old Finance building features two permanent archaeological exhibitions:  The Prehistory of the Philippines (Pinagmulan), and Archaeological Treasures (Kaban ng Lahi). The San Diego galleon is a temporary exhibit at the 2nd floor.
1. Prehistory of the Philippines (Pinagmulan)
The Pinagmulan exhibition capsulizes Philippine prehistoric research to date. It starts with the geologic formation of the archipelago, then the Paleolithic Period, Austronesian movement, Neolithic Period, Metal Age, trade goods and luxury goods (carnelian, jade and glass), pottery, Asian trade, Butuan boat, international trade, conservation of underwater materials, a featured site (Batanes Archaeological Project), and general/basic archaeology.
2.  Archaeological Treasures (Kaban ng Lahi) Maitum, Manunggul, etc.)
Features the Maitum Anthropomorphic Potteries, the Manunggul Jar, Leta-leta potteries from Palawan, limestone urns from Kulaman Plateau, Cotabato and gold artifacts.
Maitum Anthropomorphic Potteries  

The anthropomorphic secondary burial jars from Pinol, Maitum, Saranggani Province in Mindanao date back to the Metal Age.  The site had been dated to 830 +/-60 B.P. (calibrated date of A.D. 70 to 370) and 1920 +/- 50 B.P. (cal. date of 5 B.C.  to A.D. 225).   The radiocarbon dates were obtained from the soot samples taken from the small earthenware vessel found inside one of the anthropomorphic burial jar.  These burial jars are made of earthenware designed and formed like human figures with complete facial characteristics.  These were associated with metal implements; glass beads and bracelets; shell spoon, scoop, bracelets and pendants; earthenware potteries with incised designs and cut-out foot-rings; non-anthropomorphic burial jars.

Anthropomorphic Burial Jars 

Manunggul Jar  


The Manunggul Jar was recovered at Chamber A of Manunggul Cave in Palawan.  It is an elaborately designed burial jar with anthropomorphic figures on top of the cover that represent souls sailing to the afterworld in a death boat.  The figure on the rear is holding a steering paddle with both hands;  the blade of the paddle is missing.  Both figures appear to be wearing a band tied over the crown of the head and under the jaw.  The manner in which the hands of the front figure are folded across the chest is a widespread practice in the Philippines and Southeast Asia when arranging the corpse. 

The prao is carved like a head with eyes, nose, and mouth.  This motif of carving is still found on the traditional sea vessels of the Sulu Archipelago, Borneo, Malaysia.  The execution of the ears, eyes, and nose has similarities with the contemporary woodcarvings of Taiwan, the Philippines, and many areas in Southeast Asia. 

It is dated to as early as 710 - 890 B.C.  The Manunggul jar  was declared a National Treasure and its portrait is on the 1000 Philippine peso bill. 


Leta-leta cave archaeology
 Leta-leta Cave, Langen Island, El Nido, Palawan was excavated in 1965 by Dr. Robert Fox. Leta-leta Cave is an important burial site belonging to the Late Neolithic Period where an assemblage of stone and shell artifacts associated with sophisticated pottery and nephrite adzes and axes were recovered.  Other materials include stone ornaments and shell beads.
Shell Beads Necklace
Shell Scoop

Limestone urns
These are hollow limestone cylinders with vertical fluting. A variety of quaintly carved lids of soft stones were recovered from the caves and rockshelters of Salangsang, Salaman-Lebak and Menteng, Kulaman Plateau in South Cotabato.  These limestone urns were also recovered from the Seminoho Cave in South Cotabato with high percentage of anthropomorphic covers.  A radio carbon date of 585 A.D. +/-85 was taken from the collagen extracted from human bone found inside the carved limestone urn.

Gold Artifacts

The gold artifacts include gold ornaments from the Central Bank of the Philippines collection; Bolinao, Pangasinan gold teeth peggings; nose disc, and gold eye mask retrieved from an open grave burial in Barangay San Antonio, Oton, Iloilo, Central Philippines, dating from the late 14th century or early 15th century A.D.; and gold artifacts from underwater archaeological sites.
 These gold facial orifice coverings are delicately worked sheets of gold which were used to cover the eyes, nose, and mouth of the dead.  The southern Chinese and a limited group of Filipinos practiced this burial custom which persisted through the early Spanish era.

3. The San Diego Exhibition  
The San Diego was originally built as a trading  ship.  It was formerly known as the San Antonio before it was converted into a warship.  It sank approximately 900 meters northeast of Fortune Island in Nasugbu, Batangas after it engaged the Dutch warship Mauritius under the command of Admiral Oliver Van Noort on December 14, 1600. 

 A total of 34,407 artifacts and ecofacts were recovered from the shipwreck.  The artifacts include all forms of porcelain, stoneware, earthenware materials and metals.  The San Diego exhibition has been on tour around the globe before it was permanently displayed at the new National Museum of the Filipino People.

Underwater Archaeological Excavation 

Astronomical Circle


Exhibitions in Regional Branches

1. Archaeology of Bolinao - Bolinao, Pangasinan

Features the archaeological materials recovered from the 14th -15th century burial site in Balingasay, Bolinao, Pangasinan.  One of the finds is the beautiful and ornate method of decorating the teeth with gold.  Dental gold ornamentation have been encountered in various Philippine archaeological sites like Sta. Ana, Manila; Calatagan, Batangas; Samar; Marinduque; and others.  The original specimen is presently stored at the National Museum in Manila.

 The dental ornamentation of the Bolinao specimen differs from other sites.  They are like tiny nails with flat rounded tops or heads and once the body are placed in a bored hole on the tooth, they look like "fish scales" especially if they are more than one placed in a tooth,  with portions of the rounded top overlapping one another, while a single peg looks like a shiny round spot on the tooth.  Pegging vary from one up to eight pegs in a single tooth, the two upper and lower teeth usually have more pegs than the rest of the teeth.

 Other materials on display at the museum are contact period ceramics, stone tools, metal implements, earthenware materials, bone implements, and shell objects recovered from the excavation.

Paleolithic Stone Tools
2. Ancient Man in Cagayan Valley - Tuguegarao, Cagayan 
The greatest number of large fossil remains that could shed light on the past environment during the Ice Ages are in Cagayan Valley which includes the province of Nueva Viscaya, Kalinga Apayo and Isabela.  Stone tools recovered from archaeological sites in the Cagayan Valley area could provide evidences of early man's activities.  Based on the fossil records, the area was generally  forested with a subtropical moderate climate, cooler than the present day climate.  Elephants, stegodons, rhinoceros, primitive bovines, pig and deer, crocodiles and giant land turtles roamed its wilderness. 

 Food gathering and trapping of animals were the basic survival strategies at that time.  People gathered shells in streams and rivers while scavenging or hunting took place in open areas or on the edges of forest.  Stones were worked on to make tools.

Archaeological Excavation in Butuan 

Remains of Butuan Boat

3. Butuan Archaeology - Butuan City  

Butuan, Agusan del Norte, Southern Mindanao boasts of its wooden boats excavated in the area which predates European boat construction.  These boats were constructed using a very ancient technique. Carbon-14 dates of 320 AD, AD 990 and AD 1250 were obtained from samples taken from parts of the three excavated boats. 

The Balangay (referring to the smallest political unit in Philippine society whose organization is similar to what existed in the boat), as the Butuan boats were called  were constructed using the edge-pegged, plank-built technique.  The planks were secured using dowels or wooden pegs.  They were  round bottomed and were propelled by sail and steered by a rudder.  These characteristics are similar to other Southeast Asian boats. 

So far, nine (9) balangays have been documented to exist.  The National Museum excavated three of these boats while the rest are still waterlogged in specific sites in Butuan City until such time that personnel and finances permit their scientific excavation and conservation.

4.  The Tabon Caves-Quezon, Palawan  

Seventeen (17) cave sites were excavated in this southwestern sector of the Philippines which yielded stratigraphic sequences of Upper Paleolithic flake implements covering a period of about 50,000 years of the late Pleistocene and early Post-Pleistocene period.  The deepest occupational level excavated in Tabon Cave has a radiocarbon-14 determination of 30,500 +/- 1100 years ago (UCLA 958) from charcoal found with flake tools at 121 cm in depth. 

Tabon skull cap
 Sub-fossil and fossil human and animal bones in association with an industry of flake tools made of chert, basalt chopper-chopping tools and hammers were found.  Preliminary study of the fossil human bones revealed an estimated date of 22,000 to 24,000 years, representative of modern man Homo sapiens sapiens.
5. 18th Century Griffin Shipwreck - Fort Pilar, Zamboanga City
  The underwater archaeological excavation of the 18th Century Griffin wreck site conducted in cooperation with WorldWide First Inc. About 6,894 pieces of artifacts were recovered from the site consist of different types of porcelains, cannon balls,  iron ballast and glass bottles.  The first exhibition of the 18th century Griffin shipwreck was in Zamboanga City in 1987. It was exhibited in the National Museum in Manila in 1988 and subsequently remounted for permanent display in Fort Pilar,  Zamboanga City in June 1990.

Recent/On-going Research Terrestrial Projects

1. Ulilang Bundok IV-95-V)
   Sitio Dayap, Barangay Tanagan, Calatagan, Batangas

Ulilang Bundok Site is located in Sitio Dayap, Barangay Tanagan, Municipality of Calatagan, Batangas Province.  A series of systematic archaeological excavation was conducted on April 20 May 19, 1995; June 2- July 19, 1995; April 8 May 7,  1996; and May 31 June 29, 1996.
Ulilang Bundok is approximately 32 meters above sea level.  It has a total land area of 1,136 square meters that are possible or available for systematic archaeological excavation.  Only 224 square meters (or 20%) was excavated since the first phase of the project.  This is a secondary earthenware vessel burial site.  A total of 66 secondary human burial was found associated with decorated earthenware sherds, plain earthenware sherds, obsidian flakes or chips, glass beads, and edible shells (marine and brackish).  Some of the pottery vessel burials were found associated with polished stone adzes (trapezoidal in cross-section).

Ulilang Bundok is significant to Philippine archaeology and especially to Calatagan, Batangas Archaeology for this is much earlier than the other sites which have been reported. The site is dated to the Pre-porcelain period.

2. Maitum, Saranggani Project

In 1991, anthropomorphic secondary burial jars were discovered in Ayub Cave, Piñol. Maitum, Saranggani Province,  Since then, a number of archaeological excavations were conducted to recover these important artifacts.  Accelerated radiocarbon date of the recovered collagen specimen from site is about 5 BC.  Archaeometric analysis as well as typological analysis of the artifacts have been conducted. 
3. Balobok Rockshelter Re-study 

The re-excavation of the Balobok rockshelter started in September 1992.  Three cultural levels of the sedentary or foraging group were identified ranging from 8760-5140 B.P.  A number of archaeological materials such as lithic flake tools, polished stone adze, shell adze, earthenware sherds, bronze socketed adze, bone tools, glass beads and others, were recovered. Finds here are deemed to be crucial to the Autronesian Movement in Southeast Asia.

4. Pamitaan Site, Lanna, Solana,  Cagayan

The Pamitaan  site was first discovered  in 1974.  In 1991-1994 a joint project with Mr. Kazuhiko Tanaka was undertaken to excavate the site.  This was made possible with a grant from the Japanese Ministry of Education.  The site yielded artifacts of earthenware vessels, earthenware stove, clay ornaments, spindle whorls, polished stone adzes, petrified wood and animal remains.  The Gakushuin Radiocarbon Laboratory dated the site between 1860 to 1440 BC.

  5. Lallo, Cagayan 

Started in  1986 with a total of  21 shell midden sites being excavated.  In 1995 the excavations were extended to the municipalities of Gattaran and Sta. Maria.  Recovered were stone adzes, chert flakes, red slipped earthenware, high-fired trade ceramics, bone fragments, human and animal dentitions.  Similar finds were also recovered at the Fausto Sison Sr. site yielding clay lumps and beads.  The limestone shell midden sites suggest a radiocarbon date of first and second millenium B.C. while the riverbank shell midden sites of  Sta. Maria and Catayauan indicate a date of Circa 1000 A.D. Finds here are deemed to be crucial to the Austronesian Movement in Southeat Asia.

6. Batanes Project

Archaeological and Geologic explorations were conducted in 1994 and continued to the present in the islands of Batan, Sabtang, Ivuhos and Itbayat, Batanes Province in northern Philippines.  This project was partially financed by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

 The exploration and excavations resulted to the identification of four types of archaeological sites  in Batanes. These are the Ijangs' or castle-like structure in elevated areas, Nakavajayan or old settlement area, stone boat-shaped markers, and jar burials.  Carbon dating of the stone boat-shaped burial markers reveals a date of 1595 AD.

1998 Underwater Projects
1. Gujangan Island Underwater Archaeological Project
The Gujanagan Island UWA Project was undertaken jointly with the Archipelago Search and Recovery, Inc. (ASRI) and with the full support of the Philippine Navy at the waters of Luuk Municipality, Sulu Province. Two separate fieldwork were conducted at the site in the months of September and October 1998 to assess the extent of the wreck and to conduct partial archaeological excavation.  The site located at a depth of 135 feet below the surface, yielded tradeware materials dating to the Ming Dynasty Period . 
Previous to the archaeological activities on site, the Philippine Navy turned over recovered artifacts from the area to the National Museum.  The said artifacts are presently being stored at the Philippine Maritime Museum at the PNHQ compound for conservation work. 

2.  El Nido, Palawan Underwater Archaeological Project

    This project was conducted under the auspices of the Southeast Asian Institute for Culture and Environment (SEA-ICE). Underwater archaeological survey activities were conducted in separate locations in the area in the month of October 1998.  Initial diving activities were made at the shallow waters fronting the Leta-leta Cave.  The immediate submerged area below the cave mouth is where eroded cave soil was deposited through time by way of water run-off action.

 The archaeological team also coordinated with scuba diving instructors operating at the waters of El Nido Municipality for future tie-ups with diving activities and possible archaeological finds in the area.

3. Boglongan Island Underwater Archaeological Project

           This is an on-going project since 1990 jointly being undertaken with the PAMANA Foundation.  In the months of July and August 1998, underwater archaeological survey activities were conducted at the waters surrounding Panagatan Cays using the SWATH underwater survey method..  This method uses computer-enhanced graphics of clearer visualization of the sea floor.

4. Estancia UWA Archaeological Excavation Project

             The Estancia Underwater Archaeological Excavation Project was undertaken by the National Museum and the Underwater Archaeology Exploration Association, Inc (UAEAI) at the vicinity of Estancia Harbor, Iloilo on the island of Panay.  Initial exploration was made from May 22 to 28, 1998.  Finds consisted  of  wooden hull and a steel deck equipped with a bronze propeller belonging to an early 19th century vessel.  Underwater excavation was carried out with the full participation of Museum divers from May 29 to July 6, 1998.

5. Re-survey of Marinduque Site

             The National Museum and the Far Eastern Foundation for Nautical Archaeology (FEFNA) made a re-survey of an underwater archaeological site within the vicinities of Gaspar Island, Marinduque from February 11-18, 1998.  This survey was carried out based on the report by the local fishermen living around the coastal area of Barangay Pingan, Gasan, Marinduque.The underwater archaeological survey yielded negative results.

6. Dos Hermanas Underwater Archaeological Exploration Project

This project is jointly being undertaken by the National Museum and the Design International Selections Inc.  From July 17-25, 1998, underwater archaeological survey and exploration was conducted in the waters of Carlota Island, Dos Hermanas Island, Romblon.  The site lies about 200 meters from the shoreline in the northern part of Carlota Island, Romblon.  The impact zone was a drop off, 20 feet dropping to 90 feet.  Recovered archaeological materials included broken pottery and an intact jar encrusted with coral growth buried under the sand. 

7.  Ellis Shoal Underwater Archaeological Exploration Project

               Divers from the National Museum in collaboration with the Underwater Archaeology Incorporated (UAI) conducted an underwater exploration activity on the southwestern part of Ellis Shoal.  The team  together with the informants made an investigation of the area but due to strong current, the group did not find the wreck.  After three days, the site was successfully found using the hand held Garmin global positioning system (GPS).  Samples of broken jars were brought to Manila for analysis.  Plans to undertake an underwater archaeological excavation activity in the area will resume next year.

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