Garing: The Philippines at the Crossroads of Ivory Trade | @museumxstOries

Garing: The Philippines at the Crossroads of Ivory Trade

“GARING: The Philippines at the Crossroads of Ivory Trade” explores the early roots of the ivory trade in the country while looking into contemporary issues that promote the fight against elephant poaching and illicit trafficking in ivory.

The earliest prehistoric age in the Philippines dates back to about 800,000 years ago, during the Middle Pleistocene epoch. Recent scientific research shows that ancient man arrived with animals (the stagedon, elephant, rhinoceros, and giant tortoise) in the islands of the archipelago now known as the Philippines.

Evidence suggests that man and animal co-existed in the Cagayan-Kalinga area in the North of Luzon. Archeologists found fossils of large fauna that were associated with tools used in prehistoric man. They also recovered an intricate scraper made from the tusk of a stagedont, an extinct species of proboscidean- a large animal that is believed to have gone extinct about 10,000 years ago, after the last Ice Age.

Butuan in the Age of the Trade

In the ’70s, pothunters in Butuan, Agusan del Norte recovered an ivory seal dating from the 10th to the 13th century A.D. from a prehistoric shell midden site. According to Antoon Postma, the inscription on the seal is an ancient Javanese or stylized Kawi script that reads But-ban, which Johannes Gijsbertus de Casparis, a Dutch scholar in ancient Indonesian scripts, decodes as Butwan. This is a variant of Butuan, the ancient and present name of the city where the seal was found.

A Gift from the Sultan of Java

During the Age of Trade in Asia, elephants were seen as appropriate gifts among rulers or persons of high standing. Ancient trade records from Sulu Island, southwest of Mindanao show that in 1395, the Sultan of Java made a gift of two native Javanese elephants to Raja Baginda, the Sultan of Sulu. Raja Baginda kept the Javanese elephants in Jolo, Sulu, which was then a major regional center of maritime trade since the pre-Islamic period (before 1450AD). The elephants bred, eventually establishing a feral population, which was later exterminated by island natives at the end of the 18th century.

Reference: National Museum of Anthropology

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