Heritage Conservation Advocates
Huluga Fossils, Artifacts and the Big Hole
By Elson T. Elizaga, July 21, 2003. Updated Sunday, October 1, 2023. Updated January 12, 2024.

Although many archaeological sites in the Philippines are heavily looted and destroyed, some fossils and artifacts have been retrieved for scientific study. This collection in Huluga, Cagayan de Oro indicates that the area was settled around 350 AD, and possibly earlier. The settlers were using stone and, later, metal tools. They had artistic inclination, hunted large terrestrial and aquatic mammals, and had direct or indirect trading with the Chinese.

According the Dr. Erlinda M. Burton, "The water level of Cagayan River then was higher than it is now and abounded in aquatic life, including several varieties of fresh-water fish, mollusks, and edible plants that grow along the banks of the river. Because of the rich natural resource, Huluga area became a haven for human habitation.  It was probably occupied in different periods from the late Neolithic (new Stone Age) around 2000 years ago up until the onset of the Spanish regime in the Philippines. The earlier groups intermittently inhabited the area since they were more nomadic hunters and gatherers; but the later occupation seems to point a more semi- sedentary life to more sedentary station, wherein houses were permanently built. It is highly probable that the open site was occupied in different periods by different groups of people. 

It is also evident that the inhabitants in the open site manufactured pottery of varied forms and types, such as cooking pots, jars, and dishes. Although the obsidian flakes and chips were found intermixed with the pottery materials, however, it does not necessarily mean that the bearers of obsidian materials were contemporaneous with the pottery making people; they could be older. Moreover, the great bulk of pottery shards collected from the open site could attest to the presence of a community, a settlement or village, not merely as a camping site as contended by a group who conducted an excavation in the open site two years ago [2004]."

Some fossils and artifacts found in Huluga are not shown on this page.

Photo of Huluga female cranium.   Photo of female cranium, tools and wild boar tusks   Photo of obsidian flakes.
Skull of a 30-year old female, tools and ornaments found in a cave in Huluga. A fraction of the skull was sent to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and dated 350 AD. On display in Museo de Oro, Xavier University.  

Obsidian flakes are volcanic glass used as knives by ancient people. The flakes in Huluga are likely of local origin according to Dr. Craig Skinner. [1]

Found by several members of the Heritage Conservation Advocates. Identified by Dr. Antonio Montalvan II and Dr. Erlinda M. Burton.

See large image.

Photo of whale harpoon tip and other artifacts.   Photo of intricately designed earthenware sherds at Huluga midden   Photo of tektite.
The whale harpoon head is similar to a larger one in Lomblen, Indonesia -- 2,000 kilometers away from Huluga. Its National Museum accession code is X-1991-Q2-484.

Found by Elson T. Elizaga and identified by Dr. Eusebio Dizon. [2] Other artifacts shown in the photo are also found by Elizaga.

See large image.

  Decorated earthenware sherds from the midden suggest artistic inclination. Found by Elson T. Elizaga. Identified by Dr. Erlinda M. Burton.   Tektite. Found by Lourd Ostique. [3] Identified by Dr. Erlinda M. Burton.
Photo of Ming and Ching Dynasty porcelain sherds.   Photo of old Spanish coin.   Photo of stone tools.
Ming and Ching Dynasty jar sherds. Identified by Dr. Erlinda M. Burton.   A single Copper 8 Maravedis coin minted in Segovia, Spain between 1788 and 1808. It bears the likeness of King Carlos IV. The text on the obverse side reads: "Charles IIII D.G. Hisp. Rex. (Charles IIII By The Grace Of God King Of Spain)". See large image.

Found by Elson T. Elizaga. Identified through online research.
  Stone tools. On display in Museo de Oro, Xavier University.
Photo of earthenware sherds at Huluga.   Wild boar jaw found in Huluga  
Earthenware sherds from Obsidian Hill are relatively plain and worn out. Found during surface scan by several members of the Heritage Conservation Advocates.   Wild boar jaw found by Elson T. Elizaga near a midden at the foot of Obsidian Hill. See large image.   Deer bones found in the midden below Obsidian Hill. Identified by JC Nolas, curator, City Museum of Cagayan de Oro.
The treasure hunter's pit of Wilson Cabaluna in the midden of Huluga archaeological site

Wilson Cabaluna, a city tourism employee, dug a pit in the lot that is part of the Huluga archaeological complex. Cabaluna claimed he owned the lot. A neighbor alleged that Cabaluna was assisted by two men. It was unclear why officials in barangay Taguanao and Cagayan de Oro did not report the activity or instruct Cabaluna to stop digging. It was also unclear why the City Historical and Cultural Commission did not criticize or condemn the activity. (This photographed was made on September 9, 2007.)

Students and a teacher from a Davao school visit Huluga archaeological complex and saw the pit of Wilson Cabaluna

Students and a teacher from a school in Davao became witnesses to an apparent treasure-hunting pit in the Huluga archaeological complex. Leading the survey was Dr. Erlinda M. Burton (second from left). The owner of the pit is digitally shielded. (Photographed on September 9, 2007.)

What happens if fossils and artifacts are taken from their original location?

If a fossil or an artifact is discovered, it is important to refrain from touching the item and its surrounding. Even the positioning of these materials will affect scientific analysis and interpretation. They must be seen in relation to the soil, ashes, bones, water, and other materials nearby. Even if the date of a skull is determined in a laboratory, the date could be meaningless if scientists do not know exactly where the object was found. Removal and possession of artifacts and fossils are also illegal and punishable by law.

See the definition of "in situ."

Some people collect, buy, and sell these objects as “antiques," but these items are transformed to mere old, decorative objects if details about them are unknown.

Make a difference in the life of our nation by helping preserve our heritage. Encourage the local officials to protect heritage sites and objects, to put up a museum, or help an existing museum. Contact the curator of any museum. End

Excerpt from Dr. Craig Skinner's email to Elson T. Elizaga on November 23, 2007: " ...  I did some analyses ... a couple of years ago which included obsidian from the Huluga site.  Although the primary source of the obsidian (which I called the Huluga source) was not located, it was apparent from the morphology of the analyzed artifacts (unmodified angular cortex on many of the specimens) that the source is a very local one.  It's also one of the few obsidian sources that are known from the Philippines."

Skinner, according to his Linkedin account (accessed August 12, 2023), is the "Lab DIrector Emeritus at Northwest Research Obsidian Studies Lab Corvallis, Oregon, United States." According to obsidianlab.com in 2021, "Craig Skinner has been involved in volcanic tephra and obsidian characterization research in the Far Western U.S. since 1980 and is the now-retired former owner of Northwest Research Obsidian Studies Laboratory. Prior to that, he was program director for the Obsidian Studies Program at BioSystems Analysis, past-president of the International Association for Obsidian Studies, and assistant laboratory director for INFOTEC Research. Craig is currently engaged in obsidian-related research projects in Oregon and other western states and is also busy assembling the online U.S. Obsidian Source Catalog."

[2] Eusebio Dizon, Ph.D, according to his Linkedin account (accessed August 13, 2023), is "Scientist III/ Curator I, Archaeology Division at National Museum of the Philippines. Metro Manila, National Capital Region, Philippines." See also Dizon's page in ResearchGate which states that he is "Founding Director, Archaeological Studies Program, Professorial Lecturer 5."

[3] Lourd Ostique was, for many years, the administrative assistant of Museo de Oro, Xavier University, Cagayan de Oro. Before his retirement, he had worked with Fr. Francisco R. Demetrio and Dr. Erlinda M. Burton. He is the author of "Huluga Chronology," and the Cebuano version of the "Huluga Primer,'

Published by the Heritage Conservation Advocates, Cagayan de Oro, Philippines, July 21, 2003. Updated June 18, 2008. Table of artifacts expanded September 4, 2017. Updated December 22, 2021. Photo of wild boar jaw inserted on April 10, 2023. Updated further on September 30, 2023. Link to press release from the City Tourism and Cultural Affairs Office added on January 12, 2024. Photos by Elson T. Elizaga.

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