The Anthropology Division

Historical notes



One of the oldest foundations of the National Museum, the Anthropology Division traces its beginnings back to 1901. The Division consisted of three sections: Archaeology, Ethnography, and Physical Anthropology. The Anthropology Division had devoted practically half of its life in archaeological and ethnological studies and researches, focusing on the earliest man on Philippine grounds and pre-historic culture. Tragically, however, most of the records turned into ashes during World War II, leaving the Division with nothing but vivid memories and recollections of past efforts.

In 1962, Dr. Robert B. Fox, Chief Anthropologist of the National Museum, discovered the fossilized Pleistocene skull of the oldest man in the Philippines inside the Tabon Caves of Quezon, Palawan. The discovery drew international attention and recognition, thus placing Philippine Anthropology in the limelight. As a result, the National Museum received grants from the National Geographic Society and the National Science Development Board for the production and publication of "Tabon Caves: Archaeological Exhibitions and Explorations in Palawan Island, Philippines" in 1968.

Other major archaeological undertakings in the 1960s were: the Sta. Ana Excavation that revealed Filipino habitation and burial sites dating more than 400 years before the arrival of Spaniards in Manila; Laguna de Bay Excavation Project that established a chronological link between the Period of Contact and Trade with Asian countries and the early Neolithic Age; Panay Archaeological Project which confirmed the Museum's research on "Porcelain Year"; the Tambac Cave Mummies; the Ati-Atihan Festival; Dr. Felipe Landa Jocano's study on the social structure and cultural changes in rural communities; and the research and photographic documentation of the Lenten rituals performed by the local residents and pilgrims of Paombong, Bulacan.

Despite shortage of funds, the Anthropology Division managed to open various exhibitions, foremost of which were "The Muslim Filipino Art Exhibition", The "Kabihasnan" Series, a twopart presentation consisting of "Sa Daigdig ng Maranao" on one part and "Sa Daigdig ng Ifugao"; and the "DuhIgan" or transfer rites of Ifugaos.

While the National Museum was still mourning the death of Prof. H. Otley Beyer on December 31, 1966, archaeological projects were pursued in Cagayan Valley. Important studies were: "The Ancient Man and Pleistocene Fauna in Cagayan Valley", "Glass in Archaeology", "Bead Typology", and "Flake Tool Analysis". Cognizant of the need for a holistic and integrated approach to the study and application of traditional art designs and crafts, the Ethnology Section of the Anthropology Division became involved in the OKIR Project as well as in the Ethnographic Arts Research and Development Projects. Even Filipino-madejeweliy and ornaments used by prehistoric man and various ethnolinguistic groups did not skip the interest of the Ethnology Section. Specimens of this nature were presented in a permanent exhibition entitled " Hiyas ng Kabihasnan".

This page was last modified Monday, February 10, 2014
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