1000-year-old limestone tombs found in Philippines

Archaeologists from the National Museum of the Philippines have discovered the remains of an ancient village in the jungles of Mount Kamhantik near the town of Mulanay in Quezon province. Along with evidence of habitation, 15 rectangular coffins were found carved directly into limestone outcroppings in the jungle floor. A human tooth found inside one of the limestone tombs was radiocarbon dated in the U.S. and is at least 1000 years old.

There are no other burial sites of that age in the Philippines which feature carved stone coffins. Other archaeological sites from that period have been found with wooden coffins, earthen burials and pottery jar burials, but carving limestone requires greater technological advancement. Metal tools had to have been used, and this is the earliest evidence of people using metal tools to carve limestone tombs found in the Philippines.

According to a National Museum report, overall the village remains range in date from the 10th to the 14th century. Archaeologists have also found pottery shards, metal artifacts and fragments of bones from humans and animals in the coffins. Postholes carved into the limestone indicate dwellings were once erected over the jungle floor. They’ve only uncovered a small section of the estimated 12-acre site over the past year. Excavations will continue over the next few years.

The archaeological site is part of a larger 700-acre forest which was declared a protected ecological site by the government in 1998. The jungle at the base of Mount Kamhantik has been cleared for farming and habitation and the rest of the mountain was also in danger from slash-and-burn clearings. Since it is one of few remaining habitats for rare animals like cave bats and hornbills, the government placed the endangered mountain under protection to keep the thick forest intact.

Looters also did a number on the mountain years ago. In fact, it was treasure hunters who first exposed some of the limestone tombs looking for gold and other easily salable artifacts. It wasn’t until last year that archaeologists finally got a chance to explore the area and uncover more tombs and artifacts of major archaeological significance which are worthless on the antiquities market, like that tooth.

MulanayThe people in the nearby town of Mulanay are very excited about this find. Despite the natural beauty of the area, the town’s location at the foothills of the mountain on an uninterrupted six-mile strip of sandy beach on Tayabas Bay (headquarters of the 16th century Chinese pirate Lim Hong who used to dock there to bury his treasure before heading out for more pirating) with a coral reef 150 feet from the shore, and inland waterfalls surrounding a unique rock formation the locals use for picnics, Mulanay is still known more for battles between the army and the Maoist New People’s Army that took place there in years past. Mayor Joselito Ojeda hopes this discovery will finally erase that association and open the door to new ecotourism opportunities that will provide a much needed infusion of cash to the impoverished area.

9 thoughts on “1000-year-old limestone tombs found in Philippines

  1. Thanks to the people of National Museum for sharing their precious time in discovering,studying and looking for new possibilities in the ancient tomb in Mulanay.

    I do believed that the result and findings of the study will change our history, and once again, we can prove that Pilipino race is a race with more advanced culture and technological skills compared to other Asean nations.

    I grew up and raised in Mulanay, and I heard that tomb in Kamhantik (kam from the word kampo or camp, and Hantik, a black big ant, abounds in the area)when i was in Elementary from the stories of my grandfather and the old folks of the town, but no one from the local government made any research of the tomb. Maybe these are some of the reasons why most of the tombs are looted by the treasure hunters.

    Thanks to the present administrators of Mulanay, headed by Mayor Tito Ojeda and to the People of National Museum for opening a new door of possibilities and hope, and giving a chance to the town of Mulanay to be known in the rest of the world, where we become proud of being a Pilipino.

  2. It is really a great research. Such remains are really the great source of information about w history of villages of the previous eras. When we find some new remains, we find that still there are a lot of things, which are required to be discovered in history. Knowing about the lifestyles of those people is really an interesting task. Pottery shards and metal artifacts provide us the glimpse of another world, which is completely different from ours. Such researches for the middle ages really appeal me.

    I found another site on the similar topic here. However, it is a website of sale purchase of medieval clothing, but you will find the blog space sound interesting. The medieval era has been explored in a perfect manner on this website. Now, I found yours, and I am sure that it is one of the best on history, which I have found till date. Carry on this great work.

  3. Tombs are always interesting in that people seem to seek some form of immortality. The limestone presumably was thought to preserve the remains. Cessation of life is the hardest concept for humans to wrap their minds around.


  4. I am Philippino Woman who lives in the United States for a very, very long time! It is good that these islands in the Philippines had finally gotten reconition from the rest of the world! Also, they can have tourist come and visit in where they live in the Philippines.

  5. Mulanay now has a newly opened small but a very beautiful 4-storey hotel, the Kamhantik Hotel. It is located in the heart of the town proper, near the Catholic Church and the Liwasang Alfaro Aguirre, the town plaza, the center of social, cultural and sporting activities of this first class municipality. The virgin beaches are just a few hundred meters away. Visit the sarcopagus of Mount Kamhantik, the highest peak in Bondoc Peninsula, only four (4) kilometers away, and see its waterfalls, its caves with white bat and the centuries-old balete tree. After at least three hours of exploring the rainforest of Mount Kamhantik, you can refresh yourself by swimming, diving, snorkeling or plainly wading in the clear waters of the nearby beaches of Mulanay Bay.

  6. wow mulanay is very beutiful place in quezon :yes: 😉 its my place agricultural farm ;kamhatik ;church wow amazing and resort was so great

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