Tabon Caves

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Tabon Cave)
Jump to: navigation, search
Tabon Caves
Mga Kweba ng Tabon
Tabon Caves Skull Detail - Palawan, Philippines.jpg
Apparent skull carved in rock above main entrance
Tabon Caves is located in Philippines
Tabon Caves
Location of Tabon Cave in the Philippines
Alternate name Tabon Cave Complex
Location Quezon, Palawan, Philippines
Coordinates 9°16′48″N 117°58′53″E / 9.279882°N 117.9814°E / 9.279882; 117.9814Coordinates: 9°16′48″N 117°58′53″E / 9.279882°N 117.9814°E / 9.279882; 117.9814
Type Cave
Management National Museum of the Philippines

The Tabon Caves, dubbed as the Philippines' Cradle of Civilization,[1] are a set of caves located on Lipuun Point, north of Quezon municipality, in the south western part of the province of Palawan on Palawan Island, in the Philippines. The caves are named after the Tabon scrubfowl. It is bordered on the south by the town proper of Quezon, Bgy. Panitian on the west, and the South China Sea on the north and east. Out of 215 known caves, 29 have been explored and seven of these are open to the public. The seven include Tabon, Diwata, Igang and Liyang Caves. One of the oldest human bones found in the Philippines, the Tabon Man, was found here in 1962.[2] Other excavated, unexamined remains are stored onsite.

The complex is managed by the National Museum[3] and was declared as a National Cultural Treasure by the same institution in February 2011.[1][2][4]

Archaeological discoveries[edit]

The caves were researched by Dr. Robert B. Fox and a team from the National Museum of the Philippines in 1962. The greatest find of was the skull cap of the Tabon Man. It is believed to be approximately 22,000-24,000 years old.[2][3] The team found over 1,500 burial jars. One jar in particular, the Manunggul Jar, is considered to be a National Cultural Treasure. Other finds included earthenware, jade ornaments and jewelry, many stone tools, animal bones, and human fossils dating back to 47,000 years ago, earliest human remains found in the Philippines.[5] The archaeological finds indicate habitation from 50,000 to 700 years ago. The limestone formations in the reservation date back 25 million years to the Lower Middle Miocene Period.

The Lipuun Point Reservation, covering a 138-hectare island connected to the Palawan mainland by a mangrove forest, was declared a Site Museum Reservation in April 1972 and was made a priority site for tourism development in 1991 for its natural and cultural heritage.

In recent years, verification of facts in addition to further analysis of previously collected samples has allowed for a greater understanding of the site as a whole. Radioisotope dating techniques have been able to show a period of near continuous habitation from 30,000-9,000 years ago. Human remains as well as rock flakes, hammers, and other stone tools indicate the cave may have been used as a workshop.[6] The bone fragments found in the caves have been suggested to have been from the late Pleistocene to early Holocene periods.[6] Previous excavations of the site have also revealed evidence of a diet including pig and deer, which is extinct in the Philippines today. While little new data is available because of the cave's location and safety concerns, they are slowly being excavated and the old data is being reexamined.

Cave use[edit]

Earliest cave uses included inhabitation, and the factory like production of stone tools. According to a video by Dr. Fox, a jar burial period began 3000 years ago and lasted until 1500 years ago. This is evidence the area became dominated by people known as the Sa Huỳnh culture.[7]

The Sa Huynh adorned their dead with agate, carnelian, and glass beads from India and Iran.[7] Artifacts of this nature, including glass bracelettes, were found in the cave and are displayed at the Palawan Cultural Museum in Puerto Princesa.

A migration of Sa Huyhn people to Vietnam is accepted by most experts to have been the forebears of the Cham people.[7] These are a people still existing today that created an empire known as Champa.

History of the people in the area took on a new significance in modern times owing to the Spratly Islands dispute.

Igang Cave Findings[edit]

Reliefs of 3 elephants

Igang is one of the upper caves and one of the longest of the complex. It appears to have been the primary burial site and most of the burial jars were found here. Until 2013 no one gave any particular notice to the large brown and green forms that ring the inner entrance to the cave. However, an American tourist named Philip Maise, after closely reviewing cave photographs realized that was looking at large sculptures of Asian elephants. Asian elephants are still present on the neighboring island of Borneo. The sculptures themselves appear to have been made from an ancient form of cement. During the last ice age, elephants could have walked from Borneo to Palawan. The trunks of the mother elephant and her calf appear damaged suggesting they were once adorned. It is possible that spice traders from Kerala India brought nettipattums to trade. Nettipattums are gold headdresses for elephants that are still made in Kerala today.

Tabon Cave wall findings[edit]

Dark areas on left side of cave.

Tabon Cave lends its name to the complex as a whole. In this large cave with a big open chamber,researchers found a large amount of fith century Chinese artifacts. These are now at the Philippine National Museum in Manila.

The walls are mostly white except for two large dark blotches on left and right.

The multicolor dark areas on the left extend to the very top of the cave approximately 10 meters above the surface level. See gallery photos.

College of Tabonology[edit]

In July 2015, Holy Trinity University in Puerto Princesa, Palawan was selected for the construction of a new college to studies of ancient Palawan man (Tabonology). [8] Nearly all active research stopped after Dr. Fox died.

Security measures[edit]

The National Museum of the Philippines carefully guards the cave complex. All visitors are watched to ensure they take nothing but pictures and do not damage the cave walls. Further, all burial jars and remains have been secured.

One issue is new research and exploration of the complex has largely ceased. Further, trees along the cliff face both obscure and damage bas reliefs and murals. Two possible fish have been identified and a mural that depicts 4 men carrying a burial jar in a frame. These appear to be led by a Bayawan waving a talisman.



  1. ^ a b Mendoza, Victoria Asuncion (August 7, 2012). "Tabon Cave in Palawan declared Nat'l Cultural Treasure". Philippine Information Agency. Retrieved September 2, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c "Philippine Caves Declared National Cultural Treasure". Caving News. August 8, 2012. Retrieved September 4, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "Tabon Caves: Site of an important Philippine archaeological discovery". Palawan Council for Sustainable Development. Retrieved 1 February 2009. 
  4. ^ "Tabon Cave in Palawan: A national treasure". August 15, 2014. Retrieved September 4, 2014. 
  5. ^ "The Tabon Cave Complex and all of Lipuun". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. 16 May 2006. Retrieved 1 February 2009. 
  6. ^ a b "Notes on the Morphology and Age of the Tabon Cave Fossil Homo sapiens". The University of Chicago Press. October 2014. Retrieved 1 November 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c "The Cham: Descendants of Ancient Rulers of South China Sea Watch Maritime Dispute From Sidelines". National Geographic. 18 June 2014. Retrieved 29 June 2015. 
  8. ^ Joy Tabuada (16 July 2015). "HTU named as research center for ancient Palawan man". Palawan News. Retrieved 17 July 2015. 

External links[edit]