The Manunggul Jar

manunggul jar
The Manunggul Jar | @museumxst0ries

The Manunggul Jar is an earthenware secondary burial jar, which was recovered from Manunggul Cave in Lipuun Point, Quezon, Palawan, during the archaeological exploration of a team led by Dr. Robert Fox in 1964. The jar is 66.5 cm in height and 51.5 cm in maximum body width. The upper portion of the jar shows an intricate set of incised curvilinear designs. Hematite was applied to it giving it its red color.

The jar contained the bones of the dead after initial (primary) inhumation. Its most unique attribute can be seen on the lid representing two human figures sitting on a boat. The figure at the back is shown steering the boat to ferry the figure in front, with arms crossed to its chest, to the afterlife. Both figures have bands tied around from their jaws to the crown of their heads. Archaeologists have found this mortuary arrangement among corpses in many parts of the Philippines.

These two figures on a water vessel may be seen as an expression of the cosmology of prehistoric people about the afterlife and their maritime tradition. The “spirit boat” bears a carved prow and eye motif similar to water vessels of Island Southeast Asia, while the figures’ facial features are a style on wood carvings observed in Taiwan and other areas to the south. It was C-14 dated to the Late Neolithic Period, circa 890-710 BC.

The Manunggul Jar is on display at the Kaban ng Lahi Gallery at the National Museum of Anthropology.

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