Ancient Philippine Treasures set to shine in Paris: Rich Filipino civilization before Spain invasion

Credit: PASCAL GOETGHELUCK/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Gold belt. Gold belt from Surigao, in the Philippines. This belt was worn by royalty during the civilisation which thrived in Surigao between the 9th and 12th centuries.

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Keywords: ancient, archaeology, archeology, belt, cognitive archaeology, gold, gold belt, gold belt from, philippines, surigao

The Philippine treasure

IT'S about time the world knows how rich the Philippines truly.

The Musée du quai Branly (MQB) in Paris, France will be featuring the Philippines' pre-Hispanic collection of pottery and gold in an "exhibition of indigenous art and culture" next year.

This will be part of MQB's mandate as a national museum to feature arts and civilizations from Africa, Oceania, the Americas and Asia.

The Philippine Exhibition, entitled "Philippines, Art of Exchange," will be held from April 9 to July 21, 2013.

The MQB is set to borrow 30 pieces from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) pre-Hispanic collection—27 of which will be from the gold collection and three from the pottery collection.

The total insurance value for the 30 pieces is a staggering 111,159,000.00 (0.11 Billion)

Such treasures only show how distinct and rich the Filipino civilization was even before the Spanish colonization.

According to the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, excavations all over the Philippines have turned up fine pottery and gold pieces in sites such as Batangas and Mindoro in Luzon, Samar in the Visayas, and Butuan and Surigao in Mindanao.

"The technology used in making these artifacts is an enduring evidence of the high level of technology during the pre-colonial period," the Metropolitan Museum said, adding that the artifacts are now considered a national heritage and are part of the BSP's Gold and Pottery Collection.

The Metropolitan Museum revealed that since the ancient times, gold has been one of the main products of the Philippine islands.

"Both ancient and modern-day goldsmiths exude exquisiteness in their craftmanship in making pieces for trade or for personal vanity and prestige," the Museum said.

The BSP's gold collection actually started with beads and gold pieces that were utilized as a means of exchange during the ancient times.

The pre-Hispanic gold collection also showcases "barter rings," or hollow gold tubes that form a circle.

These barter rings, according to the Metropolitan Museum, are bigger than doughnuts in size and are made of nearly pure gold.

Aside from the rings, the BSP also has a significant collection of excavated glass and semiprecious stone beads, which are strung into necklaces and other ornaments.

"The gold belts or waist embellishments, which are also part of the collection, have not been found anywhere else in the world and represent the height of ancient Filipino gold industry," the Museum said.

So rare are these embellishments that a gold sash from Surigao, which will be included in the Paris exhibition, is set to be insured for 54 million!

Other pieces in the BSP Gold and Pottery Collection show that Filipinos from a thousand years ago "sent" their dead in spirit boats to the afterworld, according to the Metropolitan Museum.

The ancient Filipino dead were extravagantly adorned with "masks," which covered their eyes, noses, and mouths, made of gold sheets.

The Museum explained that gold was then considered a magical substance that may have been aimed to be kept inside the soul or to keep out evil spirits.

"The gold partially hides the features of the departed, impressing on the mind of grieving relatives an eternal, incorruptible visage, not of the flesh that will soon become earth," it added.

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