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Neolithic shell midden sites are located along the banks of the Cagayan River in the Municipalities of Lal-lo and Gattaran, about 500 kilometers northeast of Manila. The shell middens are in varying sizes and extent; and made up mostly of one type of freshwater clams, Batissa childreni. The biggest deposits of shells are found in Magapit and Bangag in Lal-lo. The thickest is more than six feet. Associated with these shell middens are polished stone tools, chert flakes, bones and teeth, and red slipped earthenware with incised and impressed designs. Most of stone tools are ground, polished with a trapezoidal cross-section; and made of sandstone, claystone and shale.
In Magapit, Lal-lo, the shell middens are centrally or strategically located on tope of the highest hill, panoramic views down stream on the north and up stream on the south can be seen.
In some areas, burial grounds are found associated with earthenware in varying forms and designs.
Carbon dating indicates first and second millennium B.C. for limestone shell midden and ca. 100 AD in the river banks shell midden.
The size and intensity of the shell deposit yielded valuable information as to the nature of Neolithic in Cagayan Valley. The Neolithic Period is known as the period when man first started to domesticate plants and animals and to make pottery at the end of the Pleistocene.
Studies on the shell middens of Lal-lo and Gattaran revealed that the ancient people who exploited their environment gathering shells as well as hunting animals like deer and pig. Pottery shards were decorated not only at the exterior surface but also at the exposed interior surface of the vessel. Most of the shards could be reconstructed into forms resembling shallow platters. Incising and impressing of the shards give their distinctive character.
Archaeological activities have resulted in the discovery of significant archaeological sites in the Municipalities of Lal-lo and Gattaran. These sites range from Neolithic into the Contact period. In these areas, the discovery of 21 shell midden sites associated with earthenware, stone tools and bones provide the opportunity to apply an interdisciplinary approach involving several fields of endeavor to solve archaeological problems including paleo-environmental reconstructions. Experts from Japan, Taiwan, Australia and the Philippines have gathered in the study area to discuss these archaeological problems and the most recent results of significant findings.
These sites are very unique and crucial for the understanding of the emergence of agriculture and the links which we have with Island Southeast Asia and South China during the Neolithic. Furthermore, the shell midden sites along the Cagayan River can be considered one of the most extensive middens in the region being found along both banks of the Cagayan River extending through at least two municipalities, and through to some extent further into the interior. The amount of art factual materials found with the discarded shells evidenced the presence of extensive communities along the areas covered.