The Tools of the National Archaeological Collection comprises the variety of simple tools that were recovered from archaeological sites belonging to the Paleolithic, Neolithic, and Metal periods of the Philippine prehistory. These primitive tools are made of hard materials such as stone, shell, copper, or bronze, and were crafted and utilized by early humans for subsistence. The collection has a wide array of tools that varies in form, shape and size depending on where, when and how they were used.
The simplest form of these are the stone tools from the Paleolithic Period, which occurred during the Middle Pleistocene at 1.2 million years BP to the Middle to Late Holocene (4000 years BP). It is composed of flake tools, cobble tools, and hand axes. Although these types of tools are generally crude and heavy, their versatility gave the early hominins a major advantage especially in hunting and gathering, and in making other tools. Notable artifacts from this period include the Arubo hand axe from Nueva Ecija, and the stone tools from Rizal, Kalinga, which were found associated with butchered megafaunal remains – the earliest evidence of human activity in the Philippines dated at around 709,000 years ago.
The Neolithic Period in the Philippines (around 4200 to 2500 years ago) began with the arrival of the Austronesian-speaking people who brought the knowledge of domesticating plants and animals and crafting better tools. Their new way of life in this period ushered a technological advancement by developing new and specialized tools. Stone tools whose bodies and blades are ground and polished were developed. Adzes made from stone and hinge of Tridacna shell were also observed in many Neolithic sites in the Philippines, particularly in riverine and coastal areas. Stepped adzes and polished trapezoidal stone tools with completely flattened sides were also developed towards the end of the period. These specialized tools were used in cultivating the land. Alongside the development of stone tools, bark-cloth beaters and tools made from imported materials such as nephrite were also introduced. Polished stone and shell tools from Neolithic sites in Batanes, Cagayan, Batangas, and Palawan comprise this collection.
The introduction of metals as the basic material in tool-making marked another great change in Philippines’ cultural history. The Metal Age Period (500 BCE to 1000 CE) saw the widespread use of metals such as copper and bronze for making tools like adzes and spearheads. Gold was also common in this period and was used in making ornaments. These metal tools and ornaments are often associated with pottery that has more intricate and elaborate designs, a reflection of how the lifeways in the islands had become more complex. A majority of the metal tools collection were retrieved from Metal Age Period burial sites, such as Bacong in Negros Island, Mulanay in Bondoc Peninsula, and Maitum in Mindanao, where they were utilized as grave goods.