Gold of Ancestors: Pre-colonial Treasures in the Philippines

Curated by Florina Capistrano-Baker, Ph.D

This exhibition of more than one thousand archaeological gold objects celebrates the cultures that flourished before the Spanish colonization of the islands. The archipelago’s strategic location, and its rich natural resources, created an important cultural nexus that made the Philippines an important crossroads of South and East Asian civilizations during pre-colonial times.

The precious objects in this exhibition were recovered in the Philippines in various archaeological contexts, often in association with tenth to twelfth-century Chinese export ceramics.  Since some funerary offerings, such as the cutwork diadems that crowned the deceased, appear to have been created in situ at the time of burial, the dates of the export ceramics interred provide an approximate time frame during which the associated gold objects were most likely produced. 

While some of the objects found in this collection are likewise represented in other collections, many objects in this exhibit are unique and have never been seen in public.

date_range 3 Aug 2022
access_time 10:00 AM- 6:00 PM
location_on 4F Galleries
info_outline This exhibition is part of the Crossroads of Civilizations feature.

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Exhibition Objects

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Kinnari

Ca. 10th - 13th century

Origin

Surigao

Medium

Gold

Dimensions

12 x 7.5 cm, 178.7 grams

Collection

Archaeological Materials

Description

In Hindu mythology, the half-human, half-horse creature called kinnari represents the positive feminine attributes of beauty, charm, poise, and elegance. When this tradition was adapted in Southeast Asia, the half-horse creature became half-bird.

This piece with a solid gold head bears facial features typical of a Filipino woman: almond-shaped eyes, high cheekbones, not so pointed nose, and thick lips. The kinnari has her hair gathered in a low bun. Probably used as a liquid pourer, the body of the bird is hollow but connects to holes on the front, likely a spout of the vessel.

Acknowledgement

Ayala Museum Collection

Location

Museum Storage

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Halter

Ca. 10th - 13th century

Origin

Surigao

Medium

Gold

Dimensions

150 cm length, 3,860 grams

Collection

Archaeological Materials

Description

Often referred as the “Golden Regalia,” this massive gold sash attests to the early influence of Hindu culture in early Filipino culture. It is worn across the chest in the manner of the Hindu upavita or sacred thread. Weighing close to four kilos of gold, this piece was likely worn by an important datu or chief during key rituals. It is made of tightly braided gold wires and gold beads woven to assemble a four-cornered halter with a slit was provided on one end – perhaps to hold a ceremonial dagger.

Acknowledgement

Ayala Museum Collection

Location

Museum Storage

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Stud

Ca. 10th - 13th century

Origin

Liloan, Leyte

Medium

Gold

Dimensions

5.98 cm diameter, 9.3 grams

Collection

Archaeological Materials

Description

This is a stud with an eight-petalled floral motif. Such rosettes on finger rings, dangling earrings, and stud ornaments might have been inspired by the vegetation flourishing on the islands at the time. Casting, granulation, and/or repousse techniques are evident in this gold ornament.

Acknowledgement

Ayala Museum Collection

Location

Museum Storage

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Belt fragment

Ca. 10th - 13th century

Origin

Surigao

Medium

Gold

Dimensions

37.4 x 4 cm, 296.5 grams

Collection

Archaeological Materials

Description

This belt fragment was designed with tubular beads forming geometric patterns such as Xs, diamonds, and triple dashes within a loop-in-loop mesh. It would have been part of an ensemble of personal adornments of a nobleman from 10th-13th-century Philippines. This belt band was originally connected to one of the buckles in this collection and is part of the so-called “Surigao Treasure” recovered in Surigao del Sur province in Mindanao.

Most belts that were irregularly excavated were cut and divided up among looters. Only a few complete belts survive.

Acknowledgement

Ayala Museum Collection

Location

Museum Storage

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Buckle

Ca. 10th - 13th century

Origin

Surigao

Medium

Gold

Dimensions

6.03 x 4.41 cm, 82.4 grams

Collection

Archaeological Materials

Description

This buckle is attached to a fragment of a belt. Gold granules form recurring triangular patterns on the buckle. It has three circular hoops at the end denoting a hook and eye locking mechanism.

Dated 10th to 13th century, this was a part of the cache called the “Surigao Treasure” accidentally found by a mine worker in Surigao City, Mindanao in 1981.

Acknowledgement

Ayala Museum Collection

Location

Museum Storage

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Diadem

Ca. 10th - 13th century

Origin

Butuan, Agusan del Norte

Medium

Gold

Dimensions

16.5 x 2.42 cm 6.8 grams

Collection

Archaeological Materials

Description

Deceased wealthy individuals were buried with jewelry and textiles with gold appliques. Their faces were fitted with a full-face mask, or cut-out covers for the eyes, nose, and mouth, which were made onsite by goldsmiths or panday-ginto. This funerary diadem adorned the forehead.

The gold accessories affirmed the status of the deceased during their lifetime and ensured a safe journey and cordial welcome to the afterlife.

Acknowledgement

Ayala Museum Collection

Location

Museum Storage

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Audio Guide

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