Posted by: austronesia | December 29, 2008

Stolen artefacts point to lost Philippines tribe

Stolen artefacts point to lost Philippines tribe

Archaeologists in the Philippines believe they have discovered evidence of a
lost tribe in sacks of broken pottery seized from antiquity smugglers.

 

.Archaeologists in the Philippines believe they have discovered the remains of a lost tribe in 22 sacks of broken pottery seized from antiquity smugglers

The haul was found somewhere near Palembang town in Sultan Kudarat province
Photo: REUTERS

Archaeologists in the Philippines believe they have discovered evidence of a
lost tribe in sacks of broken pottery seized from antiquity smugglers.

Twenty-two sacks of pottery, including burial urns sculpted in human form
believed to be more than 2,000 years old, were found loaded on a tricycle in
Sarangani province on the Filipino island of Mindanao in August.

It is thought that they originated in the neighbouring province of Sultan
Kudarat, but the precise location remains a mystery and there are fears that
the tribe has in effect been lost again because the artefacts were moved by
treasure hunters.

A man who said he owned the artefacts showed police what appeared to be forged
documents. The authorities contacted Eusebio Dizon, the head of the
archaeological unit at the National Museum, who has studied ancient burial
jars before.

“These ones are really different,” he said. “They are a different people. The
pottery has human faces that show emotions.

“The Manobos, Tirurays and B’laans tribes that have survived over time do not
bury their dead in painted anthropomorphic jars. So, we have no idea what
kind of people are behind these unique burial jars.”

“The more important thing is to find out the location, the origin of these
shards,” said Dr Dizon.

Scholars believe the site could be one of the earliest human habitations in
the Philippines and are anxious to examine whatever evidence remains in its
original location.

But finding it will not be easy. The museum lacks resources for a major
expedition and the area is rife with Muslim rebels whose fight for a
separate homeland recently escalated. The rebels demand huge payments to
allow archaeologists to work.

Bandits add a further complication and, finally, archaeologists are in a race
against thieves.

KAPI, an organisation of Filipino archaeologists, says that “treasure hunting
continues at a brazenly large scale” in the country. “Archaeology has been
losing this battle for decades now and will continue to do so if treasure
hunting and illicit antiquity trade are not stopped,” said a spokesman. “We
cannot tell the public how much information has been lost.”

Rene Miguel Dominguez, the governor of Sarangani province, said: “These
pottery pieces are part of our prehistoric history and the government must
do everything to protect the site where these materials were found.”

Archaeologists say that the laws are already in place but enforcement is
mostly absent.

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