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Butuan Archeological Sites

Date of Submission: 16/05/2006
Criteria: (iii)(iv)(v)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
National Museum
State, Province or Region:
CaragaRegion - Butuan City, Agusan del Norte
Coordinates: N8 57 E125 29 55
Ref.: 2071

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In 1975, as a result of the construction of an extensive network of large drainage channels, or esteros, to relieve Butuan City from destructive annual floods, significant amounts of archaeological artifacts were discovered that dated back to the Age of Contact with the Great Traditions of Asia, co-eval with the Yueh type wares to Ming Dynasties of ancient China from the 10th Century  to the 16th Century AD. 1) The major finds in various areas is the appearance of the remains of large open-water-going boats, the "balanghai" of historical records. The same type of boats and construction has been recovered in Sumatra and Pontian in Malaysia, apparently of the same period. There eleven of these boats: three were fully excavated, two preserved, and the rest still unexcavated. The boats are of Neolithic architecture using a planking edge-peg technology. The boats range in age from the 10th to the 13th century AD.

2) The other significant sites yielded multiple interred wooden coffin burials, containing secondary burials that feature modified skulls that are frontally flattened, ascribed to the 14th-15th Century AD. Similar finds in Central Philippines have yielded similar burials but with the difference that all these were found in caves along the islands coasts.

3) The third significant feature of the stratified sites are the tremendous amounts of trade high-fired ceramics coming from China, Cambodia, Thailand and other southeast Asian countries were also recovered, as well as distinctive white stamped pottery from Thailand; and Persian glassware, suggesting prehistoric links as far as the Middle East.

There were other notable discoveries like the Ivory Seal and the Silver Paleograph. Gold and tools for gold processing of ornaments have also been recovered from a village site Over a hundred clay crucibles and tools for the processing of gold items were discovered in the area, leading to the conclusion that an extensive gold ornaments industry was located in these areas as far back as a thousand years ago. Altogether, these data demonstrate that Butuan was a thriving international trading port a thousand years ago. This site has a tremendous historical impact in the Asian region.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The finds were authenticated by the National Museum, and deeper studies by reputable archaeologists were subsequently done. The oldest Chinese ceramic ware found in Butuan were the Yueh and Yueh type ware which dated back to the Five Dynasties (A.D. 907- 960). In a quantitative survey of the ceramics discovered in Butuan, there were representative types from various Asian realms, ranked according to volume: Chinese (10th - 15th centuries A.D.); Khmer/ Cambodian (9th-10th centuries A.D.); Thai (14th - 15th centuries A.D.) pre-Thai Satingpra (900-1100 A.D.); Haripunjaya (800-900 A.D.); pre-trade Vietnamese (11th - 13th centuries A.D.), and Persian (9th - 10th centuries A.D.)

Comparison with other similar properties

There is no other known site in the Southeast Asian region that have archaeological recoveries of a concentration of large, open-water going boats, as that found in Butuan. The fact that the boats are of Neolithic marine architecture is very unique, and which date between the 10th and 13th century AD. Only one other boat has been found in Southeast Asia, specifically in Pontian, Malaysia, where a similar boat was recovered.

It is also unique that an entire village site has been found to contain evidences of a specialization in the purification of gold and the manufacture of gold ornaments, dating at least to the Ming Dynasty. There is no report of a similar find in the rest of the region.

The presence of deformed skulls in underground coffin burials have counter parts in the rest of the country, but differing in that the rest were found in caves along coasts of islands in Central Philippines. Deformed skulls have been reported in some areas in Southeast Asia, as in Sulawesi.