Petroglyphs and Petrographs of the Philippines

Date of Submission: 16/05/2006
Criteria: (iii)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
National Commission for Culture and the Arts
State, Province or Region:
Provinces and Petrographs 
Ref.: 5018
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Description

 

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 BC to 2000 BC.

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 BC 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.

Statements 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.