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Archaeological excavations in Boljoon unearth “3 firsts”

After three weeks of excavation, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology of the University of San Carlos announced that the third phase of the Boljoon Archaeological Excavations unearthed yesterday “three firsts” in the history of archeological explorations in Cebu.

Jose Eleazar Bersales, head of the project, said it is the first time that an earring was found on a male, that a ceramic bowl has Chinese characters as part of its design, and that it is first evidence throughout Cebu of a pre-Hispanic times.

The excavation started after residents of Boljoon reported their discovery of a human skull when they tried to put up a volleyball net for their intramurals.

Bersales said that unlike in their previous excavations, such as in the town of Bantayan, the residents of Boljoon were a part of this discovery and preservation.

“They are really aware of the importance of preserving our heritage, and that is very rare. After they discovered the skull, they immediately covered it with a tile and reported it to us. But in other excavations we did, the residents already looted the site before we even got there,” Bernales, who is also the Cebu provincial consultant on heritage and museum, said.

Boljoon Mayor Deogenes Derama said that he would request that the skeletons be transferred to their own museum, as these will be an additional attraction among local and foreign tourists.

Bersales said “Boljoon is rich in heritage now because it is the only town that has evidence to show pre-Hispanic times.”

The excavation report shows that their finds came from the Pre-Spanish (1550-1650) and Early Spanish (1700s-1800s) periods.

Bersales also said that four samples were to undergo carbon dating tests in the USA today to determine their exact age. Results are expected within the week. 

A total of nine burials in various states of internment were uncovered at a depth of 60-70 cm. This brings to a total of 26 burials from the first excavation phase to this current phase. The excavated area is estimated to total to 42 square meters.

Noticeably, the males were buried with their hands clasped across their chests while the females were buried with their hands covering their genital area.

The team also found two distinct positions in these burials - one group comprises a North-South direction where the head is on the southern end while another group is composed of an East-West position where the head is oriented to the East.

“The practice of burying the dead with ceramic wares and weapons was thought to be a Satanic practice in the Spanish era, so, this settlement is clearly non-Christian,” Bersales said.

Unlike other burials found near the shore or beach, no net sinkers or shells were found lining the grave of this site. He explained that this could mean that these people were not fisherfolks, but were probably trading or bartering cotton with Chinese merchants.

The report also shows that the large bent tube gold earring was found on what was once the right ear of a male burial. A similar example is found in the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Gold Collection taken from Surigao and is dated to the 14th up to the 16th century.

Bersales said that the ceramic ware came from Anxi in Fujian Province, China and is decorated with blue leaf and Chinese characters. It was covering the face of a male burial and the characters are roughly translated as “A new leaf means a new wish.”

A white ware powder box was also found on the left area of a female burial wearing an orange carnelian bead, a tiny red glass bead and a tiny gold bead. The carnelian and glass bead probably came from India or China as there is no local source for the gemstone or the glass.

Also found in the burial were two pieces of coral stone which had holes indicating that these were worn in the hip area or pelvic region, probably as an “anting-anting” or amulet.

A light olive-colored bottle or jar was found in the burial believed dated to the end of the Ming Dynasty (1644) or the beginning of the Qing dynasty.

A near complete burial of wild pig was also recovered near another burial.

Further, pieces of evidence that were uncovered indicated the Early Spanish period (1700s-1800s) like bronze medallion, square nails, iron lags, a small bronze cross, broken pieces of Chinese ceramics and a Kinamunggay jar. — Celeste June D. Rivera, Silliman MassCom intern and Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon /MEEV

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