Excavated in a burial cave on the island of Masbate in the central Philippines, this small hammered gold foil disc was likely part of an earring. The Philippine archipelago has the second largest gold deposit in the world. Elaborate gold ornaments were produced in southern Philippine polities using a variety of techniques from at least the tenth century AD. Unfortunately, during the period of Spanish colonialism, many of these objects were taken from local inhabitants and melted down for bullion or to make new objects for the church. Nonetheless, ancient gold objects that have been recovered in archaeological sites attest to the technological and artistic sophistication of ancient Philippine gold working. Although few bones were preserved in this site, excavators did recover three human teeth (canines and incisors) inlaid with ornamental gold discs—like today, a “fashion statement” that expressed their wearer’s wealth and prestige.
In honor of the University of Michigan’s 2017 bicentennial, we are celebrating the remarkable archaeological and ethnographic collections and rich legacy of research and teaching at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology by posting one entry a day for 200 days. The entries will highlight objects from the collections, museum personalities, and UMMAA expeditions. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is also posting each day for 200 days on Twitter and Facebook (follow along at #KMA200). After the last post, an exhibition on two centuries of archaeology at U-M opens at the Kelsey. Visit the exhibit—a joint project of the UMMAA and the Kelsey—from October 18, 2017 to May 27, 2018.