Ancient Goldworking Technology in Butuan, Northeastern Mindanao, Philippines

Victor Pabalan Estrella (
Archaeological Studies Program, University of the Philippine Diliman
July, 2017
Victor P. Estrella is graduate of Master of Arts in Archaeology from the Archaeological Studies Program of the University of the Philippines Diliman. He was an Asian Graduate Fellow of the Asia Research Institute of the National University of Singapore. His research interests include material culture studies and materiality in the past, particularly the materiality of gold in Philippine prehistory and protohistory, as well as archaeology education. He is also graduate of History, Cum Laude, and has a certificate in Women Studies, from the Philippine Normal University Manila. He is also among the topnotchers of the Licensure Examination for Teachers held last September 2011.


This master’s thesis examines the worked gold items, as well as, the associated non-gold items recovered in sites in Butuan, Northeastern Mindanao, Philippines. These archaeological materials are part of a sub-assemblage deemed to belong to goldworking activities operating from the 10th to the 15th century CE. This research project employed material analysis and technical study on the observable morphology of the artefacts, particularly of the gold items, in order to identify goldworking techniques involved in their production. This study argues that goldworking in Butuan involved both physical and cognitive activities, and that the goldworks are therefore products of both the manufacturing techniques and the gold standards and conventions observed in the Southeast Asian region during this time. The examination of the sequence of gold objects’ physical production can reveal the technology and the society in which the artisan is at the centre. In putting together the archaeological data and the historical and ethnographic records, this study tries to present the social dimension of this technology.