Timeline of Precolonial Filipino Culture and Society

This precolonial Philippine timeline summarizes the development of Filipino culture and society towards its elaborate formation of incomparable identity. The intention to highlight only the important stages of precolonial culture and society is to make the timeline concise and interesting. In this article I added pictures of artifacts I found at Samar Archaeological Museum and Research Center during my research of precolonial and contemporary Leyte Samar magico-religious practices. Some of its artifacts, I believe, are not in the inventory of National Museum of the Philippines.

Paleolithic 14,500 BCE

The dawn of precolonial history in the Philippines started during the Tabon Man. According to archaeologists, who found its remains inside the Tabon Cave in Palawan, the Tabon Man coexisted with Homo Erectus in Europe, Java Man in Indonesia, and Peking Man in China. However, physical anthropologists argued that Tabon Man belonged to Homo Sapiens based on their examination of its skull cap.

Having a very simple stone tools common to Paleolithic period juxtaposed to its globe-trotting characteristics the Tabon Man is believed to be the product of stone bridge migration theorized by H. Otley Beyer’s wave of migrations. This theory, however disputed, is relevant to the idea of Tabon Cave as a stone tools factory and a temporary shelter; making the most activity of the Tabon Man outside the cave.

Since this is the place where stone tools were developed archaeologists found artifacts that marked the indication of Neolithic age.

Neolithic 6,000 BCE – 1,200 CE

Near the Tabon Cave advanced stone tools were found in Guri Cave and other cave complexes in Palawan’s Lipoon Point. These tools were used to shape and form advanced adzes and axes that were used to develop early boat technology and agriculture.

Shell beads were also found in this cave and they were produced using advance stone tool technology. Together with these finds are burial jars and pots such as the famous Manunggul Jar. It is also important to take note in this period that the idea of afterlife, ancestor worship and animist tradition was first conceived.

According to archaeologists, Kalanay pots found in Masbate were similar to the pots found in Sa-huyn, South Vietnam. Given this evidence it proves the widespread journey and interrelation of precolonial Filipinos in other parts of Southeast Asia and beyond marking the beginnings of Austronesian boat building tradition.

Here are the photographs I took in Samar Archaeological Museum in Calbayog this October. These are fragments of a pot that earmarked the Sa-huyn Kalanay pottery complex found in Samar:

Broken pieces of Sa-huyn Kalanay pottery complex found in Samar island.

Broken pieces of Sa-huyn Kalanay pottery complex found in Samar island.

Rope technique is familiar to Sa-huyn Kalanay pottery design.

Rope technique is familiar to Sa-huyn Kalanay pottery design.

Metal Age 225 CE – 1500 CE

Archaeologists believed that the development of iron tools in precolonial Philippines started from the production of jade stone jewelries or the Lingling-O that were found in Batangas. These finds were also similar to the earrings found in 1908 at Sa-huyn, South Vietnam.

During the Metal Age, maritime culture and civilization is already established that is why the flow and exchange of culture was very common. The groundwork of this era is the gold tradition as an important trade and everyday adornment of spiritual and cultural life of precolonial Filipinos.

Gold tradition did not only establish a complex societal relations evidenced by Laguna Copperplate Inscription but it also installed complex trade relations with Indians, Arabs, Japanese and Chinese that further enriched the cultural development of precolonial Filipinos.

Besides gold is the amazing textile tradition and tattooing that usually complement together with gold jewelries.

In this photos I took from the collection of artifacts from Samar Archaeological Museum and Research Center are bladed weapons or Kampilan designed with repeated patterns of rosettes and palmettes that were based on the more advanced Sa-huyn and Kalanay pottery complex:

Metal spears and elaborately designed bladed weapon.

Metal arrow/spear heads and elaborately designed bladed weapon resembling its pattern with the Naga serpent very widespread in Southeast Asia.

Repeated rosettes and palmettes pattern with crocodile head handle.

Repeated rosettes and palmettes pattern with crocodile head handle.

This timeline, however selected and brief, celebrates the long vibrant history of Filipino culture and society before the colonizers came to plunder and coerced their culture among the colonized during the early 16th century for three hundred more years. This era, according to pessimists, is known as the beginning of the end but postcolonial theorists argued that cultural evolution continued to expand amidst unceasing strife to decolonize.

Jong Pairez

20 October 2013

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One thought on “Timeline of Precolonial Filipino Culture and Society

  1. Pingback: Sinapdan Island and Bulan | Neo Tasaday

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