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Sunday, June 21, 2020

The Story Behind The Bolinao Skull


The Philippines has its own fair share of stunning archeological discoveries that gave us clues of how our ancestors lived or what they use in their everyday living. One of the most remarkable discoveries is the Bolinao skull. The skull is one of the 67 discovered with similar markings or ornaments on their canine teeth.

National Museum, Bolinao Skull
Image: Pinoy Culture
The Bolinao skull is one of the 67 skulls with the gold ornaments on their teeth. The most popular of these skulls is the one most often depicted in the photographs because of the way the skull is preserved for more than 500 years. Other skulls found in the area are not well preserved.


Some of these skulls are currently displayed or stored at the National Museum of Anthropology an annex museum of the National Museum of the Philippines where similar Pre Hispanic artifacts and remains are stored, studied, and presented to the public. Along with the Oton Death Mask, Bolinao Skull is one of the most stunning artifacts on display.

The updated expedition that led to the retrieval of the Bolinao skull is one of the most important days of Philippine archeology since they have unearthed a well-preserved artifact along with some Early Ming Dynasty ornaments. The skull belonged to a person who lived in the 1400s or the last century before the Spanish occupation.

Gold has been a status symbol even during the pre-Hispanic period. Filipinos who can still remember the lessons on Philippine history still remember our caste system or social hierarchy. The skull probably belongs to a maharlika or a nobleman. The remains with Ming Dynasty ceramics implied that he might be a trader who once traded with Chinese merchants.

The practice of pusad involves the crafting of these gold ornaments on the teeth of noblemen. A manunusad or the Prehispanic dental worker trained to put these gold ornaments on the teeth of noblemen who want to flaunt their status.

An artifact known as The Bolinao Skull was recovered from feelings Archaeological Site in Bolinao, Pangasinan. Teeth with gold ornaments were found in 67 skulls which is associated with trade ware ceramics attributed to the Early Ming Dynasty (15th century AD). The gold scales were observed to be on the buccal surface of the upper and lower incisor and canine teeth. The skull is now located at the National Museum of the Philippines.


It is said that the process of pamamumusad is very painful that only noble warriors would endure during the procedure of smelting pieces of gold and putting the smelted gold on the teeth one by one until it forms a fish scale pattern. A fitting induction rite for a warrior.

National Museum, Bolinao Skull
Image: Pinoy Culture
There are only a few artifacts of this caliber that showcased how rich the Prehispanic Filipinos are. The most sought after book in this matter is  Looking for the Prehispanic Filipino: And Other Essays in Philippine History a book written by William Henry Scott.

 In this book, Mr. Scott chronicled the rich culture of the Philippines even before the Spanish conquistadors took over. You can watch other archeological discoveries in the video below.

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1 comment:

  1. I find it as no surprise that the skulls in Bolinao have gold ornaments on their teeth. There is actually a rumor in the community that buried deep in the lands of Bolinao are treasures of gold even up to this day. I guess the area is really generally rich in natural resources.

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