Note: This is on permanent exhibit at the Museo de Baler. The texts are from the same exhibit and prepared by the National Museum. The burial site excavated was at Sitio Castillo, Brgy. Sabang just on the right side of the road before the entrance to the Carmen T. Valenzuela Elementary School.
Update 2014: The exhibit is no longer on display.
A Prehistoric Burial Site
Sitio Castillo, Brgy. Sabang, Baler, Aurora
(a permanent exhibit at the Museo de Baler by the National Museum)
In September 1989, then Governor Eunice Cucueco reported the discovery of artifacts and destruction of archeological site by pot hunters at Sitio Castillo to the National Museum (NM), a government agency mandated by law to protect and preserve the cultural properties of the country. Hence, the NM sent a team of archeologist to assess the site and save artifactual materials as well as to conduct an archaeological excavation in the area.
Surrounded by Baler Bay, mountainous areas, and Kinalapan and Castillo rivers, the Julio Site is located on a sand dune at Sitio Castillo about 3 kilometers south of the poblacion of Baler. In this site, the archeological excavation undertaken by the National Museum yielded a primary burial dated back from the 14th to 15th centuries A.D.
Exposed at the depth of 120 centimeters from the present ground surface underlying a recent garbage pit, a human skeleton was found in an extended position, lying on its back with arms laid parallel to the body and oriented to east to west direction. On top of the skull was a large blue and white porcelain bowl that was used as a head cover. A small stoneware jar with dark brown glaze was found in an upside down position on the left shoulder blade. Both tradeware ceramics are attributed to the Ming Dynasty Period. Other associated artifacts found were glass and shell beads, and shell bracelets. The camelian beads were found in a cluster at the left lower leg. On the other hand, shell bracelets belonging to Conus (Lithoconus) leopardus were found on each wrist rested on the pelvic bones. Other associated materials found on this layer were fish bones and shells.
The Julio site is the only archeological site ever recorded in the province of Aurora. This is a primary burial site associated with personal belongings and grave goods. This was a tradition among prehistoric Filipinos where they buried their dead with grave goods or funerary offerings, such as earthenware, stoneware, porcelain and stone and metal implements. It was believed that the dead needed food or material possessions as he journeyed from the land of the living to the land of the dead.
Furthermore, the recovery of blue-and-white ceramics, stoneware jars and carnelian beads provided evidences that Baler was a part of trading activities even before the arrival of the Spaniards.
Primary Burial in Julio Site
There are various burial practices in the Philippines. One is primary burial, wherein corpses are interred directly into the ground in extended and supine or flexed positions.
The human skeletal remains recovered in Julio Site, Baler was in supine position with arms extended on the sides or parallel to the body, and the head facing the east. It was associated with grave goods that can be dated to the Neolithic Period. These were tradeware ceramics, shell bracelet, and glass beads, funerary offerings known locally as pabaon. It has been common practice in the Philippines to bury the dead with objects believed to ease a soul’s journey to the afterlife.