Archaeological Exhibit in the National Museum of the Philippines

A Systematically Written Presentation Paper on the Archaeological Exhibit “National Museum: Museum of the Filipino People” The National Museum: Museum of the Filipino People displayed an immense collection of artifacts, relics and historical objects of the Philippines. It also housed fascinating and intriguing porcelain plates, coins, pots and jars, archaeological artifacts, jewelries, armaments and a whole lot more. The museum was divided into sections and galleries wherein one would get to know the Philippines’ history from as far back as 40,000 years ago.
The different galleries are the following: The Origin or Pinagmulan, Archaeological Treasures or Kaban ng Lahi, The Filipinos and Their Rich Cultural Heritage or Kinahinatnan, and the San Diego Wreck Exhibit The first three galleries were about the San Diego Wreck Exhibit located at the ground floor then continued onto the second floor. The San Diego was a Spanish Battleship that clashed with the Dutch’s Mauritius when the Dutch tried to invade Manila in the 1600’s. The events on the ship were recorded in Antonio de Morga’s book, Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas.
The San Diego was originally a 3-masted trading ship built using different kinds of Asian wood in 1590 in Cebu. It was about 35 to 40 meters long, 12 meters wide and 8 meters high. The ship was said to sink near Fortune Island, Batangas, just off Manila Bay. The San Diego was originally known as the “San Antonio”, a Spanish trading vessel. The wreck of San Diego was discovered at a depth of 170 feet. It was said to be the first ever wreck in modern times in which it was found as a result of communication among many civilizations.

Underwater archaeology deals with recuperation and the study of archaic and ancient objects and pieces submerged underwater thus it was a big challenge and an ordeal for it needs a lot of funding. Nonetheless, loads of archaeologists and other people pursued the adventure of discovering things underwater, like the San Diego Ship Wreck, for it continues to rewrite loads of our historic past. There were lots of recovered and salvaged artifacts that divers unearthed from that ship wreck such as earthenware, glassware, stoneware, ceramics, coins, potteries, jewelries, armaments and a lot more.
The earthenware includes the palayok also known as a cooking pot wherein we still use nowadays. The blue and white porcelain remains that were recovered are said to be part of the leftovers from San Diego as a merchant ship. Examples of which were bottles and dishes. They were not removed even if the ship was converted into a warship. There were at least 1500 pieces of porcelain that were scattered all over the sunken ship. The designs on the porcelain remains were described to be of Buddhist and Taoist luck symbols.
There were also gold and other precious objects that were found on the wreck site like some chains, rings, necklaces, and a carcanet also known as a jeweled collar. There were also religious ornaments that were found like small crosses, a rosary with ivory beads and medallions. Even if centuries underwater have destroyed most of the ship’s weaponry like breastplates and helmets, other tools and weaponries were also found on the wreck like hammers, padlocks, sea chests and swords though they were only recognized by the shape of their concretions.
The tableware and silverware that were found consist of plates, spoons and forks, bowls and candlesticks. The design on the tableware remains were mostly ornamented with birds, cocks, geese and deer which were popular during the 16th century. The tableware found also implied the social status of those residing and working on the warship like the high-ranking officers used the silverware while the lowest-ranked ones used the earthenware bowls. The other parts of the exhibit showed the wreck site and fourteen of the full sized recovered cannons.
There were ancient navigational instruments that were displayed as well such as sounding weights and a ruler. These were appropriate for comprehending charts and navigating in coastal waters. The astrolabe and astronomical ring, other navigational instruments though their exact function were not fully determined yet, were recovered from the San Diego established Europe’s rapid propagation of technology. Big durable Asian stoneware jars were also found and displayed where it was said to be used for storing food supplies, preserving liquids and for packing delicate objects.
The types of jars that were found on the wreck were the following, Martaban jars, Dragon Jars, Vietnamese Jars, Siamese Jars and Spanish Jars. The biggest Martaban jar, stone wares that are globular or ovaloid with narrow wide or narrow mouthed and has a dark brown glaze that were made from red clay, for example was used for storing drinking water. Spanish jars, round bottomed elongated jars with a constricted neck and an inverted rim, were said to be stowed in rows and layers on a bed of straw.
The said jars were used for storing olives and oil, dried preserved fruits and reused to hold some wine and for transporting tar. Siamese jars on the other hand were globular vessels that can carry up to 300 liters of fluids like water, wine and vinegar. Several jars were marked with the initials AB. It was said to be probably the initials of the owner of San Diego, A. de Belver. Those initials were also bluntly carved on some silverware on the wreck. The discovery of the San Diego has notably stretched our knowledge of the Renaissance period.
The next gallery I came across was the Kaban ng Lahi or Acrhaeological Treasures. In this gallery, it showcased archaeological artifacts, utilitarian vessels and burial jar collections of the early Filipino civilization and varied heritage way back 750,000 years ago. The displays were unearthed from various cave sites in the Philippines. The gallery also presented the preparations of the dead and other burial practices of ancient Filipinos and their importance.
The secondary burial was one of the practices which involved the re-burial of a dead person’s bones after it has decomposed. Other artifacts that were showcased were the Dugout Wooden Coffin, Effigy Jars, and lots of anthropomorphic jar covers. There were earthenware pots resembling forms of human figures that were displayed in the museum. They were said to be found in Ayub Cave, in Pinol, Maitum, Saranggani Province. The head-shaped covers of the jars depict different kinds of facial expressions such as grief, sorrow, happiness, joy and satisfaction.
The designs of the jars also indicated the high level of craftsmanship of the people before. The Maitum Burial Jars were used for secondary burial and were dated to the Metal Age Pottery. The Manunggul jar was one of the most valuable jar collections. It was a secondary burial vessel as well excavated from a Neolithic burial site in Manunggul cave of Lipuun, Palawan. The discovery of these vessels indicates that the early Filipinos believed in the life after death and other spiritual beliefs.
Next up was the gallery of The Origin or Pinagmulan. The gallery basically showcased the origins of the Filipino Nation and the Philippine Islands as a whole. The display focused on the four periods of Philippine pre-history namely Paleolithic, Neolithic, Metal and Ceramic Age. The earliest evidence of the presence of the people during the Pleistocene period were implied by the discovery of artifacts such as stone tools and fossils of large migrating animals like giant turtles located in Palawan and Cagayan Valley.
During the Neolithic Period, the gallery displayed various shaped stone tools which signified that early Filipinos paid more attention to polishing their stone tools. Metal Age Pottery on the other hand, was the display of burial jars which indicated the burial custom practiced by the ancient people of the period. Then again in Ceramic Age, the appearance of high-fired ceramics was the evidence of this age. This gave verification to the amplified nautical trade and cultural contact between the Philippines and other Southeast Asian neighbors.
The last gallery which I encountered was The Filipinos and Their Rich Cultural Heritage or Kinahinatnan. The gallery basically presents the various cultures of the Filipinos. It focused on the Philippines crossroads and its diversity and tapestry of cultures. I was in completely astonished as I paid visit to the National Museum. It was my first time even. How great it is to see our nation’s rich artistic, historical and cultural heritage and the preservation of our past. Stoneware Jars Anthropomorphic Jar Covers


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