Human remains from Zhirendong, South China, and modern human emergence in East Asia

Because it is not open access, we cannot make a blog post about this article just yet. But PNAS is kind enough to provide the abstract:

The 2007 discovery of fragmentary human remains (two molars and an anterior mandible) at Zhirendong (Zhiren Cave) in South China provides insight in the processes involved in the establishment of modern humans in eastern Eurasia. The human remains are securely dated by U-series on overlying flowstones and a rich associated faunal sample to the initial Late Pleistocene, >100 kya. As such, they are the oldest modern human fossils in East Asia and predate by >60,000 y the oldest previously known modern human remains in the region. The Zhiren 3 mandible in particular presents derived modern human anterior symphyseal morphology, with a projecting tuber symphyseos, distinct mental fossae, modest lateral tubercles, and a vertical symphysis; it is separate from any known late archaic human mandible. However, it also exhibits a lingual symphyseal morphology and corpus robustness that place it close to later Pleistocene archaic humans. The age and morphology of the Zhiren Cave human remains support a modern human emergence scenario for East Asia involving dispersal with assimilation or populational continuity with gene flow. It also places the Late Pleistocene Asian emergence of modern humans in a pre-Upper Paleolithic context and raises issues concerning the long-term Late Pleistocene coexistence of late archaic and early modern humans across Eurasia.




Text of the Philippine National Cultural Heritage Law

Republic of the Philippines


Metro Manila

Fourteenth Congress

Third Regular Session

Begun and held in Metro Manila, on Monday, the twenty-seventh day of July, two thousand nine.




Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Philippines in Congress assembled:

SECTION 1. Short Title. –  This Act shall be known as the “National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009.”



SECTION 2. Declaration of Principles and Policies. – Sections 14, 15, 16, and 17, Article XIV of the 1987 Constitution declare that the State shall foster the preservation, enrichment, and dynamic evolution of a Filipino culture based on the principle of unity in diversity in a climate of free artistic and intellectual expression. The Constitution likewise mandates the State to conserve, develop, promote and popularize the nation’s historical and cultural heritage and resources, as well as artistic creations. It further provides that, all the country’s artistic and historic wealth constitutes the cultural treasure of the nation and shall be under the protection of the State, which may regulate its disposition.

In the pursuit of cultural preservation as a strategy for maintaining Filipino identity, this Act shall pursue the following objectives:

(a)      Protect, preserve, conserve and promote the nation’s cultural heritage, its property and histories, and the ethnicity of local communities;

(b)     Establish and strengthen cultural institutions; and,

(c)      Protect cultural workers and ensure their professional development and well-being.

The State shall likewise endeavor to create a balanced atmosphere where the historic past co-exists in harmony with modern society. It shall approach the problem of conservation in an integrated and holistic manner, cutting across all relevant disciplines and technologies. The State shall further administer the heritage resources in a spirit of stewardship for the inspiration and benefit of the present and future generations.



SECTION 3. Definition of Terms. – For purposes of this Act, the following terms shall be defined as follows:

(a) “Adaptive Re-use” shall refers to the utilization of buildings, other built-structures, and sites of value for purposes other than that for which they were intended originally, in order to conserve the site, their engineering integrity and  authenticity of design;

(b) “Anthropological Area” shall refers to any place where studies of specific ethno-linguistic groups are undertaken, the properties of which are of value to our cultural heritage;

(c) “Antique” refers to a cultural property found locally which is one hundred (100) years in age, more or less, the production of which has ceased;

(d) “Archaeological Area” shall refers to any place, whether above or under ground, underwater or at sea level, containing fossils, artifacts, and other cultural, geological, botanical, zoological materials which depict and document culturally relevant paleontological, prehistoric and/or historic events;

(e) “Archives” shall refer to public and private records in any format which have been selected for permanent preservation because of their evidential, historical informational value; otherwise known as archival materials collections or archival holdings; the place (building/room/storage area) where archival materials are kept and preserved; and an organization or agency or part thereof whose main responsibility is to appraise, arrange, describe, conserve, promote and make archival materials available for reference and research, also known as archival agency;

(f) “Built Heritage” shall refers to architectural and engineering structures, such as but not limited to bridges, government buildings, houses of ancestry, traditional dwellings, quartels, train stations, lighthouses, small ports, educational technological and industrial complexes, and their settings, and landscapes with notable historical and cultural significance;

(g) “Collector” shall refers to any person who or institution that acquires cultural property for purposes other than sale;

(h) “Commission” shall refer to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA);

(i) “Conservation” shall refers to all the processes and measures of maintaining the cultural significance of a cultural property, including but not limited to, preservation, restoration, reconstruction, protection, adaptation or any combination thereof;

(j) “Cultural agencies” shall refer to the following national government agencies with their specific areas of responsibility: National Museum (cultural property); the National Library (books); National Historical Institute (Philippine history); National Archives (documents); Cultural Center of the Philippines (culture and the arts); and Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (language).

(k) “Cultural Education” shall refer to the teaching and learning of cultural concepts and processes;

(l) “Cultural Heritage” shall refer to the totality of cultural property preserved and developed through time and passed on to posterity;

(m) “Cultural Heritage Worker” shall refer to an individual undertaking cultural heritage work;

(n) “Cultural Institution” shall refer to entities engaged primarily in cultural work;

(o) “Cultural Property” shall refer to all products of human creativity by which a people and a nation reveal their identity, including churches, mosques and other places of religious worship, schools and natural history specimens and sites, whether public or privately-owned, movable or immovable, and tangible or intangible;

(p) “Dealers” shall refer to natural or juridical persons who acquire cultural property for the purpose of engaging in the acquisition and disposition of the same;

(q) “Heritage Zone” shall refer to historical, anthropological, archaeological, artistic geographical areas and settings that are culturally significant to the country, as declared by the National Museum and/or the National Historical Institute.

(r) “History” shall refer to a written record of past events relating to Philippine history;

(s) “Historical Landmarks” shall refer to sites or structures that are associated with events or achievements significant to Philippine history as declared by the National Historical Institute;

(t) “Historical Monuments” shall refer to structures that honor illustrious persons or commemorate events of historical value as declared by the National Historical Institute;

(u) “Historical Shrines” shall refer to historical sites or structures hallowed and revered for their history or association as declared by the National Historical Institute;

(v) “Historical Street Name” shall refer to a street name which has been in existence for at least fifty (50) years and over time has been considered historic;

(w) “Important Cultural Property (ICP)” shall refer to a cultural property having exceptional cultural, artistic, and historical significance to the Philippines, as shall be determined by the National Museum and/or National Historical Institute.

(x) “Intangible Cultural Heritage” shall refers to the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects and artifacts associated therewith, that communities, groups and individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage, such as: (1) oral traditions, languages, and expressions; (2) performing arts; (3) social practices, rituals, and festive events; (4) knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe; and (5) traditional craftsmanship;

(y) “Intangible cultural property” shall refer to the peoples’ learned processes along with the knowledge, skills and creativity that inform and are developed by them, the products they create and the resources, spaces and other aspects of social and natural context necessary for their sustainability.

(z) “Library” shall refer to an institution where the collection of books, manuscripts, computerized information, and other materials are organized to provide physical, bibliographic, and/or intellectual access to the public, with a librarian that is trained to provide services and programs related to the information needs of its clientele;

(aa) “Museum” shall refer to a permanent institution that researches, acquires, conserves, communicates, and exhibits the material evidence of humans and their environment for purposes of education or leisure;

(bb) “National Cultural Treasure” shall refer to a unique cultural property found locally, possessing outstanding historical, cultural, artistic and/or scientific value which is highly significant and important to the country and nation, and officially declared as such by pertinent cultural agency;

(cc) “Nationally significant” shall refer to historical, aesthetic, scientific, technical, social and/or spiritual values that unify the nation by a deep sense of pride in their various yet common identities, cultural heritage and national patrimony.

(dd) “Natural Property of Cultural Significance” shall refer to areas possessing outstanding ecosystem with flora and fauna of national scientific importance under the National Integrated Protected Areas System ;

(ee) “NCCA Portal Cultural Databank” refers to the specific domain in the Commission’s intranet for cultural information that is accessed only internally with control and confidentiality. It includes the registry of national cultural property.

(ff) “Pre-history” shall refer to the period of human history before the introduction of the forms of writing;

(gg) “Registry” shall refer to the Philippine Registry of Cultural Property which is the registry of all cultural property of the country deemed of significant importance to our cultural heritage;

(hh) “Restoration” shall refer to the action taken or the technical intervention to correct deterioration and alterations.

(ii) “Tangible cultural property” shall refer to a cultural property with historical, archival, anthropological, archaeological, artistic and architectural value, and with exceptional or traditional production, whether of Philippine origin or not, including antiques and natural history specimens with significant value.



SECTION 4. Categories. – The Cultural Property of the country shall be categorized as follows:

(a)      National Cultural Treasures;

(b)     Important Cultural Property;

(c)      World Heritage Sites;

(d)     National historical shrine;

(e)      National Historical Monument; and,

(f)      National Historical Landmark;

SECTION 5. Cultural Property Considered Important Cultural Property. -For purposes of protecting a cultural property against exportation, modification or demolition, the following works shall be considered Important Cultural Property, unless declared otherwise by the pertinent cultural agency:

Unless declared by the Commission,

(a)    Works by a Manlilikha ng Bayan;

(b)   Works by a National Artist;

Unless declared by the National Museum,

(c) Archaeological and traditional ethnographic materials;

Unless declared by the National Historical Institute,

(d)   Works of national heroes;

(e)    Marked structure;

(f)    Structures dating at least fifty (50) years old; and

Unless declared by the National Archives,

(g)   Archival material/document dating at least fifty (50) years old.

The property owner may petition the appropriate cultural agency to remove the presumption of important cultural property which shall not be unreasonably withheld.

SECTION 6. World Heritage Sites (WHS). The appropriate cultural agency shall closely collaborate with United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural organization (UNESCO) National Commission of the Philippines in ensuring the conservation and management of world heritage sites of cultural and mixed sites category, in the Philippines.

SECTION 7. Privileges for Cultural Property. – All cultural properties declared as National Cultural Treasures and national historical landmarks shall be entitled to the following privileges:

(a)      Priority government funding for protection, conservation and restoration;

(b)     Incentive for private support of conservation and restoration through the Commission’s Conservation Incentive Program for National Cultural treasures;

(c)      An official Heritage Marker placed by the cultural agency concerned indicating that the immovable cultural property has been identified as national cultural treasures; and/or national historical landmarks, sites or monuments; and,

(d)     In times of armed conflict, natural disasters, and other exceptional events that endanger the cultural heritage of the country, all National Cultural Treasures or national historical landmarks, sites or monuments shall be given priority protection by the Government.

All cultural properties declared as Important Cultural Property may also receive government funding for its protection, conservation, and restoration. An official Heritage Marker shall likewise be placed on an immovable cultural property to identify the same as important cultural property.

SECTION 8. Procedure for Declaration, or De-Listing of National Cultural Treasures or Important Cultural Property. The procedure in declaring as well as in delisting a National Cultural Property or an Important Cultural Property shall be as follows:

(a)      A declaration or a delisting of a cultural property as a National Cultural Treasure or an Important Cultural Property shall commence upon the filing of a petition by the owner, stakeholder or any interested person, with the Commission, which shall refer the matter to the appropriate cultural agency;

(b)     Upon verification of the suitability of the property as a national cultural treasure or an important cultural property, the cultural agency concerned shall send notice of hearing to the owner and stakeholders. Stakeholders, including but not limited to local government units, local culture and arts council, local tourism councils, non-government conservation organizations, and schools, may be allowed to file their support or opposition to the petition;

(c)      The owner and/or other stakeholders shall file their position paper within fifteen (15) days from receipt of the notice of hearing, furnishing all the parties, including the appropriate cultural agency, with such position paper. Extensions may be allowed, but in no case shall it exceed more than thirty (30) days; and

(d)     The petitioner/stakeholder shall give their answer within fifteen (15) days upon receipt of any position paper. Thereafter, no further submissions shall be allowed.

(e)      The appropriate cultural agency shall have a maximum of ninety (90) days from the deadline of the submission of all the answers within which to submit its resolutions and render its decision on the application.

SECTION 9. Right of First Refusal on the Sale of National Cultural Treasures (NCT).

The appropriate cultural agency shall be given the right of first refusal in the purchase of cultural properties declared as national cultural treasures. Prior to the finality of the sale, the appropriate cultural agency may likewise match any offer made for the purchase of national cultural property.

SECTION 10. Licensing of Dealers of Cultural Property. – All dealers of cultural property shall secure a license to operate as such from the appropriate cultural agency concerned.   They shall submit a quarterly inventory of items carried, which shall include a history of each item.   Failure to submit two (2) consecutive inventories shall be a ground for cancellation of the license.   All dealers of Cultural Property shall be subject to inspection of the concerned cultural agencies.

The cultural agencies may charge and collect fees for registration as well as for licenses, inspections, certifications, authorizations and permits that they issue and undertake in connection with the implementation of this Act.   Funds generated from these collections by cultural agencies shall be retained by the cultural agency concerned for its operations.

SECTION 11. Dealings of Cultural Property. No cultural property shall be sold, resold, or taken out of the country without first securing a clearance from the cultural agency concerned. In case the property shall be taken out of the country, it shall solely be for the purpose of scientific scrutiny or exhibit.



SECTION 12. Designation of Heritage Zones. The National Historical Institute and the National Museum in consultation with the Commission and, the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board or other concerned agencies, shall designate Heritage Zones to protect the historical and cultural integrity of a geographical area.

SECTION 13. Maintenance of Heritage Zones. A Heritage Zone shall be maintained by the local government unit concerned, in accordance with the following guidelines:

(a)      Implementation of adaptive re-use of cultural property;

(b)     Appearance of streets, parks, monuments, buildings, and natural bodies of water, canals, paths and Barangays within a locality shall be maintained as close to their appearance at the time the area was of most importance to Philippine History as determined by the National Historical Institute; and,

(c)      Local government units shall document and sustain all socio-cultural practices such as but not limited to traditional celebrations, historical battles, recreation of customs, and the re-enactment of battles and other local customs that are unique to a locality.



SECTION 14. Establishment of a Philippine Registry of Cultural Property (PRECUP). All cultural property of the country deemed important to cultural heritage shall be registered in the Philippine Registry of Cultural Property.

The Commission, through the appropriate cultural agencies and local government units, shall establish and maintain this Registry within three (3) years from the effectivity of this Act. The guidelines in the registration of cultural property are as follows:

(a)      All cultural agencies concerned shall individually maintain an inventory, evaluation and documentation of all cultural properties it has declared according to their category and shall submit the same to the Commission. For cultural property declared as Immovable Cultural Property, the appropriate cultural agency shall, after registration, give due notice to the Registry of Deeds having jurisdiction for annotation on the land titles pertaining to the same;

(b)     Local government units, through their cultural offices, shall likewise maintain an inventory of cultural property under its jurisdiction and shall furnish the Commission a copy of the same;

(c)      Both cultural agencies concerned and local government units shall continuously coordinate in making entries and in monitoring the various cultural properties in their respective inventory;

(d)     All government agencies and instrumentalities, government-owned and/or controlled corporations and their subsidiaries, including public and private educational institutions, shall report their ownership and/or possession of such items to the pertinent cultural agency and shall register such properties within three (3) years from the effectivity of this Act;

(e)      Private collectors and owners of cultural property shall register such properties, within three (3) years from the effectivity of this Act. The private collectors and owners of cultural property shall not be divested of their possession and ownership thereof even after registration of said property as herein required.

Information on registered cultural properties owned by private individuals shall remain confidential and may be given only upon prior consent of the private owner. The Commission shall operate the Registry in the NCCA portal cultural databank.

SECTION 15. Conservation of Cultural Property. All intervention works and measures on conservation of National Cultural Treasures, Important Cultural Property, as well as national historical landmarks, sites or monuments, and structures previously marked by the National Museum and/or National Historical Institute before the implementation of this Act shall be undertaken only upon prior approval of the Commission through the appropriate cultural agency which shall supervise the same.

The Commission shall approve only those methods and materials that strictly adhere to the accepted international standards of conservation.

SECTION 16. Documentation and Preservation of Traditional and Contemporary Arts. Local government units shall document traditional and contemporary arts and crafts, including their processes and makers, and sustain the sources of their raw materials. The local government units shall encourage and sustain traditional arts and crafts as active and viable sources of income for the community.

The Commission, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Tourism and other government agencies involved directly or indirectly in the production of goods shall assist the local government units in protecting their traditional and contemporary arts and crafts making them viable for current and future markets, with a view to encouraging and promoting the unique heritage and identities of the said communities.

The local government unit concerned shall submit an annual inventory of these documentations to the Commission, which will be included in the Philippine Registry of Cultural Property, as established in Section 14 of this Act.

SECTION  17. Systematic Research in Natural History. – The National Museum shall have the authority to collect, maintain and develop the national reference collections of Philippine flora and fauna, rocks and minerals through research and field collection of specimens including Important Cultural Property within the territorial jurisdiction of the Philippines. It shall be exempt from any and all permit systems regulating the same.

The National Museum shall inform the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Agriculture of such collection. All type of specimens collected in the Philippine territory shall be deposited in the National Museum.

SECTION 18. Heritage Agreements. – The Commission, upon advice of the concerned cultural agency, may enter into agreements with private owners of cultural properties with regard to the preservation of said properties.

Such agreement shall be in the form of a contract, and may include such terms and conditions including, but not limited to:

(a)      Public access to the property;

(b)     Value of the encumbrance;

(c)      Duration of the servitude of the property;

(d)     Restriction of the right of the owner or occupant to perform acts on or near the place;

(e)      Maintenance and management of the property;

(f)      Provision of financial assistance for the conservation of the property;

(g)     Procedure for the resolution of any dispute arising out of the agreement.

Such agreement should be annotated in the land title to bind future owners and/or occupants of the immovable cultural property.

SECTION 19. National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage. – The appropriate cultural agency shall closely collaborate with the UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines in safeguarding intangible cultural heritage in the Philippines. The Philippine Intangible Cultural Heritage Committee established by the UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines shall continue to take lead role in implementing the provisions of the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural heritage with particular attention to Article 11 to 15 of the said Convention.

SECTION 20. Immovable National Cultural Treasures. – Immovable National Cultural Treasures shall not be relocated, rebuilt, defaced or otherwise changed in a manner, which would destroy the property’s dignity and authenticity, except to save such property from destruction due to natural causes.

The site referred to in this provision may only be moved after securing a permit from the Commission or the appropriate cultural agency.

SECTION 21. Indigenous properties. – The appropriate cultural agency in consultation with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples shall establish a program and promulgate regulations to assist indigenous people in preserving their particular cultural and historical properties.

SECTION 22. Renaming of Historical Streets, Buildings Designated as Cultural Treasure or Important Cultural Property. The names of historical streets, parks, buildings, shrines, landmarks, monuments and sites designated as National Cultural Treasures or Important Cultural Property shall not be allowed to be re-named by a local or national  legislation, unless approved by the National Historical Institute, and only after due hearing on the matter. Furthermore, for changes of  names done to historical streets, parks, buildings, shrines, landmarks, monuments, and sites prior to the effectivity of this act, the National Historical Institute may direct the local government units to restore their original names, also after due hearing.




SECTION 23.    Export of Cultural Property. – Whoever desires to export cultural property registered in the Philippine Registry of Cultural Property shall adhere to the following requirements:

(a)      Authorization from the Commission through the appropriate cultural agencies;

(b)     Application for export permit shall be submitted thirty (30) days before the intended export from the Philippines; and

(c)      Application for export permit must include the following:  (1) the purpose of the temporary export; (2) the export date of the cultural property; (3) the repatriation date of the cultural property; (4) a description of the cultural property; and, (5) the inventory of the cultural property in the Philippine Registry of Cultural Property.

The grant of export permit shall be based on the following conditions:  (i) the cultural property is exported on a temporary basis; and (ii) export of cultural property is necessary for scientific scrutiny or exhibit.

SECTION 24.    Repatriation Claims and Agreements. – Should the cultural property registered in the Philippine Registry of Cultural Property be illicitly exported from the country, the Department of Foreign Affairs shall, upon the recommendation of the appropriate cultural agency, claim the right of repatriation vis-à-vis all other contracting States. Any compensation and costs shall be carried by the Philippine government.

For the protection of cultural and foreign affairs interests and to secure cultural heritage, the Philippines may conclude international treaties with contracting States on the import and repatriation of cultural property subject to the following conditions:

(a)      The scope of the agreement must be cultural property of significant importance to the cultural heritage of the contracting States;

(b)     The cultural property must be subject to the existing export policies for the purpose of protecting cultural heritage; and,

(c)      The contracting States shall grant reciprocal rights.



SECTION 25. Power to Issue a Cease and Desist Order. – When the physical integrity of the national cultural treasures or important cultural properties are found to be in danger of destruction or significant alteration from its original state, the appropriate cultural agency, shall immediately issue a Cease and Desist Order suspending all activities that will affect the cultural property. The local government unit which has the jurisdiction over the site where the immovable cultural property is located shall report the same to the appropriate cultural agency immediately upon discovery and shall promptly adopt measures to secure the integrity of such immovable cultural property. Thereafter, the appropriate cultural agency shall give notice to the owner or occupant of the cultural property and conduct hearing on the propriety of the issuance of the Cease and Desist Order. The suspension of the activities shall be lifted only upon the written authority of the appropriate cultural agency after due notice and hearing involving interested parties and stakeholders.

SECTION 26. Power to Issue Compulsory Repair Order. When a privately-owned heritage site cannot be maintained by the owner or has fallen into disrepair thru neglect to such an extent that it will lose its potential for conservation, the Commission, through the appropriate cultural agency, may serve on the owner or occupant of such property, an order to repair or maintain such site. If the owner fails to comply with said order within thirty (30) to forty-five (45) days, repairs may be undertaken by the appropriate cultural agency for the account of the owner.

SECTION 27. Visitorial Powers. – The cultural agencies concerned, through the Commission, are hereby given the power to inspect National Cultural Treasures and Important Cultural Properties, and national historical landmarks, sites or monuments at any time to ensure the protection and integrity of such. They may also inspect public or private collections or objects that may be categorized as cultural property; Provided, That in the case of private collections or objects, the prior written consent of the owner shall be obtained.

SECTION 28. Power to Deputize Other Government Agencies. – The cultural agencies concerned, as well as the Commission, shall have the power to deputize the Philippine National Police, the National Bureau of Investigation, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine Coast Guard, and other local or national law enforcement agencies, including the Bureau of Fisheries’ agents, the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources’ rangers, the Bureau of Customs and Immigrations agents, members of the Office of the Special Envoy on Transnational Crimes and other such agencies and their successors in interest, to enforce the provisions of this Act and its implementing rules and regulations. The said agencies shall immediately detail their respective personnel to protect the cultural items under the National Registry.

Failure to follow deputization order of the concerned cultural agency as well as the Commission shall be penalized in accordance with Section 49herein.

SECTION 29. Power to Recover Cultural Properties.  – The Commission is empowered to recover or retrieve cultural properties which are under the custody of foreign nationals or entities and to bring these properties back to Philippine custody.

SECTION 30. Anthropological Research and Archaeological Exploration/Excavation.

(a)      The National Museum with respect to cultural/ archaeological/ anthropological matters, and the National historical Institute, with respect to historical anthropological matters, shall regulate and control all   anthropological research conducted by foreigners; and all archaeological excavation or exploration. Pursuant to the foregoing, the National Museums or the National Historical Institute shall deputize other agencies to protect archaeological and anthropological sites.  It shall be guided by the following rules:

(1)     All cultural property found in terrestrial and / or underwater archaeological sites belong to the State.

(2)     No terrestrial and/or underwater archaeological explorations and excavations for the purposes of obtaining materials and data of cultural value shall be undertaken without written authority and direct site supervision by archaeologists and/or representatives of the National Museum;

(3)     All anthropological researches, for the purpose of obtaining materials and data of cultural value and where the principal proponent is a foreign national shall be undertaken only with the authority, and under the supervision of the National Museum or the National Historical Institute. Anthropological research by Philippine nationals, especially members of the indigenous communities shall be encouraged;

(4)     Archaeological or anthropological materials presumed as important cultural property shall be allowed to leave the country only upon proper evaluation and written permission of the National Museum or the National Historical Institute;

(5)     All explorations and excavations undertaken wherein the caves, rock shelters and their vicinities may have been used in the prehistoric past by man either for habitation, religious and/or sacred and burial purposes all over the country, shall be under the direct jurisdiction and supervision of archaeologists and/or other experts of the National Museum;

(6)     All mining activities inside caves, rock shelters and any such other areas shall require a written permit and clearance from the National Museum. An appropriate prior inspection by representatives of the National Museum, funded by the company applying for a mining right, shall be required to ensure that no archaeological materials are present and, possibly, destroyed;

(7)     Excavations in caves, rock shelters and other areas by laymen are prohibited by this Act. All earth-moving activities in these areas must have the proper permit and clearance from the National Museum and monitored by their representatives;

(8)     All treasure hunting permits and licenses shall be issued by the National Museum, which shall formulate the rules and regulations to adequately control, regulate and monitor all applicants for such undertakings; and

(9)     The provisions of this Act on explorations and excavations of terrestrial and underwater archaeological sites shall supersede all local, municipal, regional and autonomous regional governments’ resolutions and ordinances.

(b)     When the presence of any cultural or historical property is discovered, the National Museum or the National Historical Institute shall immediately suspend all activities that will affect the site and shall immediately notify the local government unit having jurisdiction of the place where the discovery was made. The local government shall promptly adopt measures to protect and safeguard the integrity of the cultural property so discovered and within five (5) days from the discovery shall report the same to the appropriate agency. The suspension of these activities shall be lifted only upon the written authority of the National Museum or the National Historical Institute and only after the systematic recovery of the archaeological materials.

(c)      The Commission, upon the recommendation of the appropriate cultural agency, shall provide incentives for persons who discover and report heretofore unknown archaeological sites, in accordance with its rules and regulations implementing the provisions of this Act.

(d)     Any government or non-government infrastructure project or architectural site development shall include anthropological, archaeological, and historical and heritage site conservation concerns in their Environmental Impact Assessment System.



SECTION 31. Responsibilities of Cultural Agencies for Designation of Cultural Property. – The cultural agencies, in conformity with their respective charters, shall define and delineate their respective areas of responsibility with respect to cultural property and assessment of National Cultural Treasures and national historical landmarks, sites or monuments. These areas shall be subject to periodic re-assessment whenever necessary.

For purposes of this Act, the following shall be the responsibilities of cultural agencies in the categorization of cultural property:

(a)    The Cultural Center of the Philippines shall be responsible for significant cultural property pertaining to the performing arts;

(b)   The National Archives of the Philippines shall be responsible for significant archival materials;

(c)    The National Library shall be responsible for rare and significant contemporary books, manuscripts such as, but not limited to, presidential papers, periodicals, newspapers, singly or in collection, and libraries and electronic records;

(d)   The National Historical Institute shall be responsible for significant movable and immovable cultural property that pertains to Philippine History; heroes and the conservation of historical artifacts

(e)    The National Museum shall be responsible for significant movable and immovable cultural and natural property pertaining to collections of Fine Arts, Archaeology, Anthropology, Botany, Geology, Zoology and Astronomy, including its conservation aspect; and

(f)    The Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) shall be responsible for the dissemination, development, and the promotion of the Filipino national language and the conservation of ethnic languages;

SECTION 32. Institutional Linkages of the National Cultural Agencies. – The cultural agencies and other national government agencies, as listed below, shall consult, coordinate and work closely with the Commission in the implementation of their respective programs/projects in the context of this Act. Furthermore, the Commission may link up with other agencies and institutions, as it may deem appropriate, as a way of dealing with conservation on a holistic manner.

(a)      The Department of Tourism, and its attached agencies, which shall be responsible for cultural education among tourism services, and protection of cultural property supplemental to the jurisdiction of the cultural agencies as defined in this Act. The implementation and creation of a tourism master plan shall be consistent with this Act;

(b)     The Intramuros Administration which shall be responsible for the restoration and administration of the development in Intramuros;

(c)      The National Parks Development Committee as an attached agency of the Department of Tourism, which shall be responsible in supervising the development (beautification, preservation and maintenance) of Quezon Memorial, Fort Santiago, Luneta, Paco Park, Pook ni Maria Makiling and other national parks and satellite projects;

(d)     The Department of Education which shall be responsible in instituting the governance of basic education act, and the conservation and restoration of its built heritage such as the significant Gabaldon School buildings as determined by the National Historical Institute;

(e)      The Department of Public Works and Highways which shall be responsible in undertaking major infrastructure projects specifically in the planning, design, construction, and maintenance of national roads and bridges as they impact on heritage structures or aspects of heritage conservation;

(f)      The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples in behalf of the country’s indigenous cultural communities, which shall coordinate with the national agencies on matters pertaining to Cultural Property under its jurisdiction;

(g)     The Department of Environment and Natural Resources which shall be responsible for the establishment and management of the National Integrated Protected Areas System and the conservation of wildlife resources, including cave and cave resources and which shall coordinate with the National Commission on Indigenous peoples, the conservation of natural resources that are cultural sanctuaries of indigenous peoples;

(h)     The Department of the Interior and Local Government which shall coordinate with the national cultural agencies on matters pertaining to Cultural Properties under its jurisdiction, and ensure that the provisions of this Act is properly executed by the local government unit;

(i)       The Office of the Muslim Affairs which shall coordinate with the national cultural agencies on matters pertaining to Cultural Property under its jurisdiction;

(j)       The UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines which shall be responsible for providing the liaison between the cultural agencies of the Philippines and UNESCO as well as assist the national cultural agencies in implementing the agreements and conventions adopted by the UNESCO of which the Philippines has ratified or is in the process of ratification;

(k)     The Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board which shall coordinate with the local government units and the Commission on matters pertaining to the establishment and maintenance of Heritage Zones;

(l)       The Autonomous Regional Government in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordillera Administrative Region which shall coordinate with the national cultural Agencies on matters pertaining to Cultural Property under their respective jurisdictions; and,

(m)   The Office of the Special Envoy on Transnational Crimes which shall have the oversight and operational capacity to go after illicitly trafficked and stolen cultural treasures.

SECTION 33. Incorporation of Cultural Property Programs in Local Government Units Budgets. – The local government units are encourage to incorporate programs and budgets for the conservation and preservation of Cultural Property in their environmental, educational and cultural activities.

SECTION 34. Training Programs. The Commission, in coordination with the appropriate cultural agencies shall provide general training programs on conservation to the local government units which have established cultural heritage programs and projects in their localities.



SECTION 35. Tax Exemption on Donations. All donations in any form to the Commission and its affiliated cultural agencies shall be exempt from the donor’s tax and the same shall be considered as allowable deduction form the gross income in the computation of the income tax of the donor, in accordance with the provisions of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997, as amended.

SECTION 36. National Heritage Resource Assistance Program. – The Commission may provide financial assistance in the form of a grant to historic, archaeological, architectural, artistic organizations for conservation or research on cultural property. No grant made pursuant to this Act shall be treated as taxable income.

SECTION 37. Awards and Citations. – To encourage preservation of the national heritage, the Commission shall establish an annual conservation recognition program under which monetary prizes, awards and citations will be given by the President of the Philippines, upon the recommendation of the Commission, for special achievements and important contributions and services in the area of heritage preservation and conservation efforts.



SECTION 38. Incorporation of National Cultural Treasures and Important Cultural Property in the Basic Education System. – Within one (1) year from the effectivity of this Act, the Department of Education in coordination with the Commission’s Philippine Cultural Education Program shall formulate the cultural heritage education programs both for local and overseas Filipinos to be incorporated into the formal, alternative and informal education, with emphasis on the protection, conservation and preservation of cultural heritage property.

The Philippine Registry of Cultural Property shall likewise be incorporated into the formal, alternative, and informal education by the provincial and local governments.

SECTION 39. Cultural Heritage Education Program. – Within one (1) year from the effectivity of this Act, the Department of Education, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and the Commission on higher Education in consultation with the Commission shall set forth in its teaching programs nationwide the following cultural heritage education programs with emphasis at the provincial, city and municipal levels:

(a)      Protection, conservation and preservation of cultural heritage properties;

(b)     Instructional materials in prints, film and broadcast media on the cultural and historical significance of cultural properties; and

(c)      Visitation, public accessibility and information dissemination on designated local cultural properties.

SECTION 40. Public Accessibility. – Access to national historical landmarks, monuments and sites, whether designated as National Cultural Treasure, Important Cultural Property by the general public for visitation and information, and by government representatives for inspection, shall not be hindered except on reasonable cause. Fees, as prescribed by the cultural agency concerned, may in appropriate cases be charged to defray cost of conservation, inclusive of general maintenance and upkeep. In the case of privately owned monuments and sites, the National Historical Institute or the National Museum shall arrange with the owners the schedules of visits and regular inspection.



SECTION 41. Cultural Heritage Workers’ Incentives. The national cultural agencies, in coordination with the Commission on Higher Education shall initiate scholarships, educational training programs, and other measures to protect the well being of curators, conservators, authenticators and valuators/appraisers of cultural property. Such cultural workers shall be given grants, incentives and scholarships upon the endorsement by the head of the appropriate cultural agency.

(a)    Program for Cultural Heritage Workers. Within ninety (90) days from the effectivity of this Act, the Commission through the cultural agencies concerned shall come up with the following:

1)  An active Roster of Authenticators and Valuators/Appraisers;

2) An education and training plan for conservators, authenticators, valuators/appraisers, and other conservation related workers; and

3) A general training plan on conservation for local government units.

(b)   Application of Scientific Career Merit System. Cultural heritage workers in the Civil Service with a Doctorate, Master of Science, or Master of Arts Degree in fields related to cultural heritage promotion and conservation, shall be given the rank and benefits of Scientists, subject to qualifying standards equivalent to those prescribed in the scientific career merit system of the government.

A cultural heritage worker involved in science and technology in the government agencies shall be eligible for the benefits under Republic Act 8439 or the Magna Carta for Scientists, Engineers, Researchers and other S&T Personnel in Government. The Commission shall likewise establish a merit award system for non-civil service cultural heritage workers.



SECTION 42. Creation of Sentro Rizal. – There is hereby created and established a Sentro Rizal whose main purpose is the promotion of Philippine arts, culture and language throughout the world.

SECTION 43.  Overseas Branches or Offices of Sentro Rizal.Sentro Rizal shall have branches or offices in countries where there are children of overseas Filipino workers who need to be educated about their roots, as well as developed countries where there are large Filipino communities.

The office or branch shall be repository, inter alia, of the following materials on Philippine art, culture and language: books, digital video discs, compact discs, films, magazines, artworks, tourism promotion materials, information materials, etc.  all these shall be made available to the public both Filipino and foreign.

SECTION 44.  Coordination and Supervision with Philippine Schools. – The Sentro Rizal shall coordinate and supervise the Philippine Schools for Filipino children overseas.

SECTION 45.  Services Offered. –The Sentro Rizal shall offer Filipino language courses for children and adults, as well as exhibits, small concerts, poetry reading, Philippine cuisine lessons in all Sentro Rizal branches.

SECTION 46.  Provision of Tourism, Trade and Investment Materials to the Sentro Rizal. The Department of Tourism, as well as the Department of Education, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Commission on Higher Education, National Historical Institute, National Archives, National Library, and the Cultural Center of the Philippines, shall provide tourism promotion materials to the Sentro Rizal overseas branches. In the same manner, the Department of Trade and Industry will also provide trade and investments materials.

SECTION 47.  Appropriation. –  The amount of One hundred million pesos (P100,000,000.00) necessary to carry out the provisions of this article shall be appropriated immediately to be generated from whatever source that are available in the National Treasury.



SECTION 48. Prohibited Acts. – To the extent that the offense is not punishable by a higher punishment under another provision of law, violations of this Act may be made by whoever intentionally:

(a)      Destroys, demolishes, mutilates or damages any world heritage site national cultural treasures important cultural property, and archaeological and anthropological sites;

(b)     Modifies, alters, or destroys the original features of or undertakes construction or real state development in any national shrine, monument, landmark and other historic edifices and structures, declared, classified, and marked by the National Historical Institute as such, without the prior written permission from the Commission. This includes the designated security or buffer zone, extending five (5) meters from the visible perimeter of the monument or site;

(c)      Explores, excavates or undertakes diggings for the purpose of obtaining   materials of cultural historical value without prior written authority from the National Museum. No excavation or diggings shall be permitted without the supervision of a certified archaeologist;

(d)     Appropriates excavation finds contrary to the provisions of the New Civil Code and other pertinent laws;

(e)      Imports, sells, distributes, procures, acquires, or exports cultural property stolen, or otherwise lost against the will of the lawful owner;

(f)      Illicitly exports cultural property listed in the Philippine Registry of Cultural Property or those that may be categorized as such upon visitation or incorrectly declares the same during transit; and,

(g)     Deals in cultural property without proper registration and license issued by the cultural agency concerned.

SECTION 49. Penal Provisions. – Upon conviction, the offender shall be subject to a fine of not less than Two Hundred Thousand Pesos (P200,000.00) or imprisonment for a term of not less than ten (10) years, or both upon the discretion of the Court: Provided, That any cultural property attempted to be concealed from registration or those intended to be encumbered or excavated in violation of this Act shall be summarily confiscated and forfeited in favor of the Commission: Provided further, That if the violation is committed by a juridical person, the president, manager, representative, director, agent or employee of said juridical person responsible for the act shall also be liable for the penalties provided herein: Provided furthermore, That if the acts are committed by dealers, they shall suffer, in addition to the penalties provide herein, the automatic revocation of their license to operate: Provided finally, That if the offender is an alien, he shall be placed under the custody of the Bureau of Immigration for the appropriate proceedings under this Act, and shall be summarily deported after serving his/her sentence.

Heads of departments, commissions, bureaus, agencies or offices, officers and/or agents found to have intentionally failed to perform their required duty as prescribed by the deputization order under Section  28 of this Act shall be liable for nonfeasance and shall be penalized in accordance with applicable laws.

If the offense involves the non-registration of a cultural property such as those referred to in Section 14, and the non-registration occurs upon or after proper notification by the Commission or the cultural agency concerned, the offender shall be subject to a fine of not less than ten thousand pesos (P10,000.00) but not more than one hundred thousand pesos (P100,000).

The concerned head of agency, officer and/or employee of the government entities mentioned in Section 31 shall be held liable for failure to consult and coordinate with the Commission for the damage to the cultural property resulting from the implementation of the entity’s program/project, and shall be meted the penalty mentioned in the first paragraph of this section:  Provided, That the offender/s shall likewise be asked to pay for the repair or rebuilding of what has been damaged.



SECTION 50. National Endowment for Culture and the Arts. The sum of Five hundred million pesos (P500,000,000.00) shall be contributed by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and/or General Appropriations at the minimum rate of One hundred million pesos (P100,000,000.00) per year for five years, towards the establishment of a National Endowment for Culture and the Arts. Said amount shall be kept separate and deposited in a special account in the Bureau of Treasury specifically earmarked for culture and the arts.



SECTION 51.    Implementing Rules and Regulations. – The Commission, in consultation with other government agencies mentioned in this Act, shall promulgate the implementing rules and regulations within ninety (90) days after the effectivity of this Act.

SECTION 52.    Repealing Clause. – Pertinent provisions of Republic Act No. 7356, the “Law Creating the National Commission for Culture and the Arts”; Republic Act No. 8492, the “National Museum Act of 1998”; Republic Act No. 9072, the “National Caves and Cave Resources Management and Protection Act”; and Republic Act No. 7942, the “Philippine Mining Act of 1995”; and all other laws, presidential decrees, executive orders and rules and regulations inconsistent with the provisions of this Act are hereby repealed or modified accordingly.

SECTION 53.    Separability Clause. – Any portion or provision of this Act that may be declared unconstitutional shall not have the effect of nullifying other portions or provisions hereof as long as such remaining provisions can still subsist  and be given effect.

SECTION 54.    Effectivity Clause. – This Act shall take effect fifteen (15) days after its publication in at least two (2) newspapers of general circulation.


PROSPERO C. NOGRALESSpeaker of the House of Representatives JUAN PONCE ENRILEPresident of the Senate

This Act which is a consolidation of Senate Bill No. 3014 and House Bill No. 6733 was finally passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives on December 14, 2009 and December 16, 2009, respectively.

MARILYN B. BARUA-YAPSecretary general

House of Representatives

EMMA LIRIO-REYESSecretary of the Senate

Approved:                             March 26, 2010


President of the Philippines

Where are the Potsherds? The Kids Got Them.

ResearchBlogging.orgMichael Schiffer emphasized the importance of the study of formation processes to better understand people-object interactions through time. In his book, natural and cultural processes (n-transforms and c-transforms as he called them) should be understood if we were to interpret the archaeological record.

The natural processes (or n-transforms) include weathering, erosion, natural disasters, chemical and biotic agents which structures the archaeological deposit. These natural processes need to be understood well because this has a bearing on the state of the archaeological record. For example, Schiffer mentioned that warmer and humid temperatures are conducive to bacterial and fungi growth, thus making certain artifacts in these contexts disintegrate faster.

C-transforms are transformations in the archaeological record brought about by human action. Examples of c-transforms are the following: discarding, recycling, heirlooms, and deliberate and accidental destruction. Some archaeologists, like William Walker, studied ceremonial trash to follow the material remains of religious behavior, suggesting that votive artifacts go through a different life history.

For this blogpost, I will be showing pictures of a children’s game that could perhaps be the reason why potsherds are seldom seen in some sites (OK, potsherds are the most visible of all artifacts. But please bear with me and hear my story on how kids may have reduced potsherd frequency in the archaeological record). I played this game as a kid with other children from the neighborhood (and so did my parents, grandparents, and perhaps several generations before). Until now, this nail-shining game is still played in some parts of my town.

The game starts with the collection of potsherds from the field. Usually, redder potsherds are preferred more because of the orange tinge it leaves on the nails. These sherds are then grounded to fine dust by pounding with a heavier rock. The small pile of finely grounded earth are then rubbed on the nails until it leaves a distinctive shine. This game can go on and on for several months in various households in Leyte. So, the next time Philippine archaeologists ask where the potsherds are, tell them the kids got to them first.

Below are photos of my cousins’ children playing the same game we played as kids:

Step 1. It starts with a broken pot and nail-conscious kids.

2. Pounding the Potsherd to Pieces

3. More pounding

4. Grinding to get the fine earth (used for rubbing on the nails)

5. After the rubbing, nice shiny nails.

6. Look! Shiny Happy Nails!

Walker, W. (1995). Ceremonial Trash? In Expanding Archaeology, edited by J. Skibo, W.H.. Walker, and A.E. Nielsen, pp. 67–79.

On Anthropology Field Schools

In Philippine anthropology departments, the start of April heralds the beginning of field schools. This is the time when professors drag their students away from the stuffy confines of the classroom and push them into the grime and sweat of fieldwork. For at least one month, students scrape  the earth until callouses grow on their palms and the tedious job of accessioning artifacts lulls them to sleep. The nights are spent on heated anthropological discussions up until the wee hours, sometimes over bottles of beer and karaoke blaring in the background.

One of the best training ground for the basics of archaeology is the Boljoon Archaeological Field School of Prof. Jobers Bersales of the University of San Carlos. In here, students are given a well-rounded training in archaeological excavation techniques and theory while also in a very scenic place. The site is right at the yard of a Spanish-era church with the entrance facing the blue seas of Cebu Strait. A fortress of  hills and cliffs with sparse vegetation envelops the area and, at its highest point, a sentry box made of coral rocks lies in decay. As the field school’s ex-bone guy and field hand, I had the chance to see the artifacts closely. We were able to recover interesting gold specimen, ceramics, precious stone beads, potteries, among other things. One of the exciting burial finds were two pieces of needle-shaped animal shell(?) with deliberate puncture holes at its base. This burial ornament was located on top of the pelvic region of a male individual. We also noticed  skull moulding and teeth filing practices in many of the buried individuals.

One of my memorable field school moments was in Joyce Well, New Mexico, located in that boot heel-shaped corner of this southwest state. We camped there for six weeks in the desert wilderness, amidst the purring of mountain lions and the scampering of roadrunners. Dr. William H. Walker, the field school director, armed us with machetes in case a wayward cat goes inside our tents (I think the purpose was mostly psychological than anything else. He could just have given us rosary beads against this very efficient ambush predators). Working on the Casas Grandes-type ball courts and pueblos, Walker and the team of field archaeologists helped students connect archaeological theory with the drudgery of digging. Walker would lie down flat on his belly next to your excavation pit and reveal the story of the scraped earth. He would talk endlessly about formation processes, the paleoenvironment of the site, the people’s religion, technology, sports, etc. that you could visualize the whole culture right before your eyes. Walker could also turn an ordinary trowel into a surgeon’s scalpel, deftly slicing the contours of the soil, exposing the artifact for removal and documentation.

Resting in the middle of a night trek

Another nice field memory was the 2006 primatological field school I co-organized (with Carla Escabi) in Bohol. Two primate species were observed: Philippine tarsiers (Tarsius syrichta) and Philippine macaques (Macaca fascicularis). The behavior, ecology and conservation of these species were the main topics for the training.  Although macaques are not endangered, we focused on them for animal identification exercises and the recording of animal behaviors because of their size.  We followed the format from other field schools, such as the La Suerte Biological Field Station in Costa Rica.

For the tarsiers, we  did daytime and nocturnal observational treks in the forests of Corella, Bohol. We found a pregnant female and a (possibly) mating couple seeking refuge under a clump of leaves in one of our day treks.  This couple was found no more than 6 inches from each other (which we found surprising since tarsiers are considered solitary in the literature).  Though they appear sluggish during daytime, tarsiers can leap from one branch to the next in a flash at night. They are so fast and small that it is impossible to follow them through the thicket. One time, we lay down underneath a tarsier sleeping site for hours until it woke up. At first, the primate stretched its long ankle bones and elongated its body as if it were doing a vertical push-up. Then the tarsier licked the tufts of hair at both sides of its shoulder and then the knees. Though we stayed so silent, its bat-like ears perked up like small satellite disks pointing in our direction. Rotating its head towards us, the tarsier stared for a moment with those moon-shaped eyes (by the way, each eye is bigger than its brain) and, in a split second, jumped three meters to the next branch.

mother and infant tarsier

We followed the tarsier for 30 minutes but its speed and agility were too much for non-vertical leapers like us.

What I like best about field schools is the learning opportunity students get in doing anthropology. While book knowledge is important, being on the field intensifies anthropological curiosity and interest. With all the discussions, work, and the general anthro-conducive atmosphere, students get to explore research questions and dream about what they could be in the future. I thus encourage everyone to head on to the nearest anthropology department and inquire about joining field schools.  The experience is really worth the time.

On the Spiritual Brain

Since I cannot get the full text of Urgesi et al’s article and has to rely on what is freely available on the net, here’s a nice review of the article over at Neurophilosophy. I think Urgesi et al’s article is an important study that can be a source of inferences in various disciplines, such as the one mentioned in my previous blog. Below are some of the points raised by Neurophilosophy regarding the article:

It is well documented that posterior regions of the parietal lobe are involved in various aspects of bodily self-awareness, including the perception of one’s body in relation to its surroundings. Damage to the left posterior parietal cortex, for example, causes deficits in awareness of the spatial relationships between different body parts; lesions in the junction of the temporal and parietal lobes in the right hemisphere are associated with delusions in which patients deny owning their limbs; and damage to the left and right temporo-parietal junction can cause the illusion that the self is located within the extrapersonal space surrounding the body and out-of-body experiences, respectively.

The authors describe their findings within this context. Ablation of tissue near the temporo-parietal junction, especially in the inferior parietal lobe, causes a reduced sense of bodily awareness, so that the boundary between self and non-self become blurred. This detachment from the body increases the patients’ propensity for mystical experiences. Supporting this conclusion, earlier work has shown that the mystical experiences of Tibetan Buddhist monks and Carmelite nuns are associated with altered parietal lobe activity.

One major drawback of the study is that it is based entirely on the patients’ own reports of self-transcendence. The results would have been more rigorous if based on an objective measure of the phenomenon. Furthermore, self-transcendence is a vague concept which means different things to different people. The authors’ definition of it is therefore somewhat narrow, as there is more to this trait than the three aspects measured by them. It is also unlikely that a trait such as self-transcendence can be localized to just two regions of the brain. Likewise, spirituality is an extremely complex phenomenon of which self-transcendence is but one aspect.

Neuroarchaeology, anyone?

ResearchBlogging.orgBack in Cebu, I once helped in the bone assessment for the Boljoon Archaeological Project, a Spanish contact period site (1500 to late 1600s) situated in a church plaza fronting a scenic beach. While doing the inventory, I noticed that some of the cranium were artificially modified with the frontal bones flattened to a slope–very similar to the one on display in the USC museum.

A culturally modified cranium has traditionally been explained as due to the aesthetic appeal of this morphology among its practitioners. In a brilliant blog review on this practice, a hot cup of joe explains that

For the Arawe, the practice was “purely an aesthetic one” and had no magico-religious or class motivations associated with it. There were no rituals or ceremonies involved and appeared to be done simply because it was found aesthetically pleasing

The Wikipedia post recorded that the reasons for cranial modification are many:

A prominent hypothesis is that deformation was performed to signify group affiliation (Gerszten and Gerszten, 1995; Hoshower et al., 1995; Tubbs, Salter, and Oaks, 2006). Or, it may have been done to demonstrate elite status. This may have played a key role in Egyptian and Mayan societies. Queen Nefertiti is often depicted with what may be an elongated skull, as is King Tutankhamen (Gerszten and Gerszten, 1995).

These hypotheses draw on the archaeological and anthropological theoretical traditions of categorizing the “unusual” to the ideological realm since it is assumed that this cannot be explained otherwise. Generally, archaeologists tend to subordinate evidences of religion and ritual in the archaeological record to supposedly more visible aspects (i.e. technomic and sociotechnic components). They would argue that religion and ritual are mental and cognitive processes and thus can not be investigated “scientifically.” This “invisibility” is rooted in the methodological reluctance of those in the process school to uncover ideological dimensions. Following Walker, I posit that relegating the “unusual” as ideological and immaterial denies the force of ritual and religion to structure the archaeological record, most especially skeletal evidences such as cranial modification practices.

One way by which archaeologists can address this methodological reluctance is to bring in the neurosciences into the fold and make that discipline bear on archaeological questions, such as the case of cranial cultural modification. Neuroscientists have explored the  link between brain trauma and spirituality.  Urgesi et al, using brain lesion mapping techiniques, revealed that the “left and right parietal systems (play a crucial role) in determining self-transcendence and cast new light on the neurobiological bases of altered spiritual and religious attitudes and behaviors in neurological and mental disorders.”

With the neurosciences encroaching on anthropological topics, I think it is interesting for anthropologists/archaeologists to explore cranial modification as an indigenous science that enhances the practitioners’ access to the spiritual world. The effects of brain trauma are  interpreted differently in nonwestern contexts, just as mental illnesses are also culture-bound. Pain has also been known to induce trances and enhances spiritual connection in various cultures; for instance, Catholic penitentes in the Philippines relate a sense of spiritual peace after being nailed to the cross.

I think what is needed is a critical mass of neuroscientists in archaeology to address questions such as this. In the Philippines, where archaeologists are almost extinct, we might have to wait another hundred years for this question to be explored.

Urgesi, C., Aglioti, S., Skrap, M., & Fabbro, F. (2010). The Spiritual Brain: Selective Cortical Lesions Modulate Human Self-Transcendence Neuron, 65 (3), 309-319 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2010.01.026