Prehistoric Locations in Philippines

Angono Triglyphs

Criteria: (iv)

Category: Cultural

Angono, Rizal (Philippines)


The petroglyphs are engraved on the back wall of a rock shelter 63 meters wide, 8 meters deep and 5 meters at the highest point. The engravings are in a horizontal plane measuring 25 by 3 meters. There are 127 engraved animate figures, 7~O of which are concentrated centrally. Archaeological wirk in the area yielded both Neolithic and Paleolithic tools with fragmented pottery, with an estimated date of approximately 2,000 B.C.

Butuan Archeological Sites

Criteria: (vii)

Category: Cultural

CaragaRegion - Butuan City, Agusan del Norte



In 1975, as a result of the construction of an extensive network of large drainage channels, or esteros, to relieve Butuan City from destructive annual floods, significant amounts of archaeological artifacts were discovered that dated back to the Age of Contact with the Great Traditions of Asia, co-eval with the Yueh type wares to Ming Dynasties of ancient China from the 10th Century to the 16th Century AD. 1) The major finds in various areas is the appearance of the remains of large open-water-going boats, the "balanghai" of historical records. The same type of boats and construction has been recovered in Sumatra and Pontian in Malaysia, apparently of the same period. There eleven of these boats: three were fully excavated, two preserved, and the rest still unexcavated. The boats are of Neolithic architecture using a planking edge-peg technology. The boats range in age from the 10th to the 13th century AD.

2) The other significant sites yielded multiple interred wooden coffin burials, containing secondary burials that feature modified skulls that are frontally flattened, ascribed to the 14th-15th Century AD. Similar finds in Central Philippines have yielded similar burials but with the difference that all these were found in caves along the islands coasts.

3) The third significant feature of the stratified sites are the tremendous amounts of trade high-fired ceramics coming from China, Cambodia, Thailand and other southeast Asian countries were also recovered, as well as distinctive white stamped pottery from Thailand; and Persian glassware, suggesting prehistoric links as far as the Middle East.

There were other notable discoveries like the Ivory Seal and the Silver Paleograph. Gold and tools for gold processing of ornaments have also been recovered from a village site Over a hundred clay crucibles and tools for the processing of gold items were discovered in the area, leading to the conclusion that an extensive gold ornaments industry was located in these areas as far back as a thousand years ago. Altogether, these data demonstrate that Butuan was a thriving international trading port a thousand years ago. This site has a tremendous historical impact in the Asian region.

Justification for Outstanding Universal Value

Satements of authenticity and/or integrity:

The finds were authenticated by the National Museum, and deeper studies by reputable archaeologists were subsequently done. The oldest Chinese ceramic ware found in Butuan were the Yueh and Yueh type ware which dated back to the Five Dynasties (A.D. 907- 960). In a quantitative survey of the ceramics discovered in Butuan, there were representative types from various Asian realms, ranked according to volume: Chinese (10th - 15th centuries A.D.); Khmer/ Cambodian (9th-10th centuries A.D.); Thai (14th - 15th centuries A.D.) pre-Thai Satingpra (900-1100 A.D.); Haripunjaya (800-900 A.D.); pre-trade Vietnamese (11th - 13th centuries A.D.), and Persian (9th - 10th centuries A.D.)

Comparison with other similar properties:

There is no other known site in the Southeast Asian region that have archaeological recoveries of a concentration of large, open-water going boats, as that found in Butuan. The fact that the boats are of Neolithic marine architecture is very unique, and which date between the 10th and 13th century AD. Only one other boat has been found in Southeast Asia, specifically in Pontian, Malaysia, where a similar boat was recovered.

It is also unique that an entire village site has been found to contain evidences of a specialization in the purification of gold and the manufacture of gold ornaments, dating at least to the Ming Dynasty. There is no report of a similar find in the rest of the region.

The presence of deformed skulls in underground coffin burials have counter parts in the rest of the country, but differing in that the rest were found in caves along coasts of islands in Central Philippines. Deformed skulls have been reported in some areas in Southeast Asia, as in Sulawesi.

Neolithic Shell Midden Sites in Lal-lo and Gattaran Municipalities

Neolithic shell midden sites are located along the banks of the Cagayan River in the Municipalities of Lal-lo and Gattaran, about 500 kilometers northeast of Manila. The shell middens are in varying sizes and extent; and made up mostly of one type of freshwater clams, Batissa childreni. The biggest deposits of shells are found in Magapit and Bangag in Lal-lo. The thickest is more than six feet. Associated with these shell middens are polished stone tools, chert flakes, bones and teeth, and red slipped earthenware with incised and impressed designs. Most of stone tools are ground, polished with a trapezoidal cross-section; and made of sandstone, claystone and shale.

In Magapit, Lal lo, the shell middens are centrally or strategically located on tope of the highest hill, panoramic views down stream on the north and up stream on the south can be seen. In some areas, burial grounds are found associated with earthenware in varying forms and designs.

Carbon dating indicates first and second millennium BCE for limestone shell midden and ca. 100 AD in the river banks shell midden. The size and intensity of the shell deposit yielded valuable information as to the nature of Neolithic in Cagayan Valley. The Neolithic Period is known as the period when man first started to domesticate plants and animals and to make pottery at the end of the Pleistocene.

Studies on the shell middens of Lal lo and Gattaran revealed that the ancient people who exploited their environment gathering shells as well as hunting animals like deer and pig. Pottery shards were decorated not only at the exterior surface but also at the exposed interior surface of the vessel. Most of the shards could be reconstructed into forms resembling shallow platters. Incising and impressing of the shards give their distinctive character.

Archaeological activities have resulted in the discovery of significant archaeological sites in the Municipalities of Lal lo and Gattaran. These sites range from Neolithic into the Contact period. In these areas, the discovery of 21 shell midden sites associated with earthenware, stone tools and bones provide the opportunity to apply an interdisciplinary approach involving several fields of endeavor to solve archaeological problems including paleo environmental reconstructions. Experts from Japan, Taiwan, Australia and the Philippines have gathered in the study area to discuss these archaeological problems and the most recent results of significant findings.

Comparison with other similar properties:

These sites are very unique and crucial for the understanding of the emergence of agriculture and the links which we have with Island Southeast Asia and South China during the Neolithic. Furthermore, the shell midden sites along the Cagayan River can be considered one of the most extensive middens in the region being found along both banks of the Cagayan River extending through at least two municipalities, and through to some extent further into the interior. The amount of art factual materials found with the discarded shells evidenced the presence of extensive communities along the areas covered.

Paleolithic Archaelogical Sites in Cagayan Valley

Paleolithic sites are located within the Cagayan Valley Basin which is bordered by the Sierra Mountain range on the East; the Caraballo on the South; the Cordillera Central on the west; and the Babuyan Channel on the north. Found in two municipalities of the province, namely, Solana and Penablanca, Paleolithic sites yielded the earliest stone tools and remains of extinct and extant species of animals.

Archaeological excavations undertaken in Solana and vicinities resulted in the discovery of more than 68 Paleolithic sites in the Awidon Mesa formation. These sites yielded stone tools and fossils of extinct animals that include stegodons, elephants, rhinoceros, and large tortoise. The sites tended to confirm previous reports by prominent paleontologists and archaeologists from Europe that both Pleistocene mega-fauna fossils and chopper-chopping stone tools were present in the valley, suggesting mid-Pleistocene date for tool technology in the area at the earliest and later periods.

The frontiers of prehistory is thus being broadened and pushed back. Tentative results of radio-metric reading in the valley have yielded at tektite date of approximately .92 - 1.7 m.y. The Mid-Pleistocene dating of the presence of man in the Philippines has been established.

On the eastern flank of the valley in the Municipality of Penablanca, archaeological exploration specifically in the Callao Limestone formation revealed the presence of 93 archaeological sites that yielded stone tools of Paleolithic industry and bones and shells of animals still living in the vicinities. Of these sites, 78 are caves and rock shelters. The archaeological study of the caves in the Callao limestone formation suggests post-Pleistocene sites where a Paleolithic type of technology persisted. The materials recovered indicate that the people were hunters and gatherers who exploited forest and riverine environments. 

Cagayan is undoubtedly one of the richest archaeological sites in the Philippines. Excavations by the National Museum and field research by the Cagayan Museum have yielded vast archeological findings including artifacts dating back to: the Paleolithic Age; the Neolithic Age, a time when man started to produce his own food through domestication of plants and animals; Iron Age which covers the transition from 2000 BCE to 1000 A.D. Culture has progressed to a point where there is already knowledge of smelting and forging iron, the use of more advanced agricultural techniques, and weaving. Cagayan Valley, like many other provinces in the Philippines, was never isolated from foreign influence as was earlier believed. It was once a part of the long prehistoric international trade with neighboring countries. The Historic Age likewise chronicled the date when Juan Salcedo visited the valley. Such discoveries give a diachronic view of the technological and cultural evolution of Cagayan.

The National Museum archaeologists and experts at the University of the Philippines and research institutions in several countries have been engaged in significant archaeological researches in Cagayan Valley. Their findings revealed the earliest trace of the emergence of man in the Philippines projected back in time to the middle of the Pleistocene Epoch at about 800,000 years before the present. These evidences came in the form of stone tools identified as man made. Man probably in the form of Home erectus roamed the valley at that time.

Archaeological work covering the Pleistocene and Post Pleistocene time frames in the Philippines has been intensified and is now marked with growing precision and systematics. At the present, a project entitled The Litho-, Bio-, and Chronostratigraphy of the Fossil Mammal Bearing Deposits in the Philippines " is being implemented in close collaboration with paleontologists from the National Museum of Natural History at Leiden, the Netherlands. So far, explorations and excavations undertaken have provided evidences needed in the reconstruction of the chrono-stratigraphic framework of the fossil bearing deposits in the Philippines. Furthermore, re-excavations in the Post-Pleistocene sites associated with stone tools of Paleolithic industry have been conducted by NM archaeologists.

Comparison with other similar properties:

Considerable data have been gathered on the distribution of extinct fauna and paleo-environment in Southeast Asia, such as Sulawesi, Java, Timor and Flores and the Philippines (Aziz, 1988; Fox 1971; Glover 188; Hooijer 1948, 1975; Koenigswald 1958; Shutler 1988, Sondaar 1988; de Vos 1988, Bautista 1988). The discovery of earliest evidence of the presence of mega-fauna in the Philippines has widened the knowledge of distribution of these extinct animals in Southeast Asia. Through these findings, the reconstitution of the local faunal evolution and the position of the Philippines in relation to a large scale migration pattern of vertebrates including man in Southeast Asia are known.

To protect the area for the present and future generations of Filipinos, Presidential Decree No. 1109 was passed, "Declaring the Archaeological areas in the Cagayan Valley and Kalinga - Apayao Archaeological Reservation".

Petroglyphs and Petrographs of the Philippines

These petroglyphs are of animate figures interpreted as representing juveniles or infants on a rock face in a rock shelter. The shelter is located southeast of the city of Manila, three kilometers from the town of Angono, and some 235 meters above sea level. The shelter if formed by quaternary volcanics, located on the eastern limb of an anticline. The cave faces 305 degrees west and measures 632. 84 meters, 4.68 meters in height and 8.2 meters in depth. The cave was formed at the close of the Pleistocene, early part of the Holocene, at a period when the quaternary alluvium was not yet extensive.

The petroglyphs occupy 25 meters of the rockwall with a height of 3.7 meters from the floor level. The engravings are executed into all the available space on the wall with no orientation nor association with one another. There are no relationships in scale and size, and no baseline.

The engravings are made on the tuff layer of the wall with " v " and " u " cross sections, depending on the sizes of the images, the largest of which is 63 centimeters. There is no attempt at making relieves. The general typology of the images is a rounded head on a narrow neck, rectangular body with a lower taper, linear flexed limb with three digits each. There is a total of 127 still discernable figures. There are non-cognitive incisions. There are 51 distinct types. The engravings are not decorative but are symbolic representations, executed by different individuals using a single mental template, apparently with the same cultural persuasion associated with healing and sympathetic magic.

The dating of the petroglyphs is probably late Neolithic Age. Only highly fragmented low-fired pottery was recovered, a number of Paleolithic cobble and flaked tools, and Neolithic Age polished adzes. The Philippine Neolithic ranges from 6000 BCE to 2000 BCE.

The other set of Petroglyphs are those found in Alab, Mountain province carved on boulders on top of promontories. The configurations are those of pudenda. The dating is relatively later and placed at not earlier than 1500 BCE or even later.

The Petrographs are of two kinds: a) Charcoal drawings on cave walls in Penablanca, Cagayan Province, and the Singnapan Caves in southern Palawan; b) red hematite prints in Anda Peninsula, Bohol province. The dating of these is still undetermined.

Petroglyphs are more rare in Southeast Asia where most rupestrine art is done through hand prints or paintings. Often petroglyphs are translated into petrographs, e.g. the Angono ones are found drawn with charcoal in the Bato Caves of southern Sarawak, and in southern Thailand. The petrographs in terms of handprints are very rare in the Philippines compared to those found in Sarawak, Sulawesi, Jave, Pontian Malaysia, and the very extensive red hematite rock art found in the banks of Mekong River between Thailand and Cambodia. Other major rupestrine art are found in the Pacific World done by Polynesians, Australia among the Bushmen, in Spain and France. All these New and Old World sites are well-documented.

Justification for Outstanding Universal Value

Satements of authenticity and/or integrity:

The petroglyphs and petrographs are authentic, the sites being systematically excavated, documented and studied by the National Museum of the Philippines by a multi-disciplinary team of archaeologists, anthropologists, geologist, botanists and zoologists. All have been officially declared National Cultural Treasures in accordance with Presidential Decree 374; and have been recorded among rock art registers.

Comparison with other similar properties:

The petroglyphs of Angono Rizal are similar in configuration to those found in southern Thailand, Sulawesi and Malaysia. All are co-eval being approximately done during the span of the Neolithic Age of Southeast Asia.; while those of Alab Mt. Province have counter parts in the Pacific Islands and Hawaii, dating later than the Philippine Metal Age.. The charcoal petrographs of Cagayan province are of different configuration that cannot be related exactly elsewhere and which at present could not be dated, while the red hematite hand prints are comparable with those found all over Asia, Australia and Europe.