Skip to main content »

Bontoc Jar Burials: The Remains of an Ancient Tribe

It's not just skeletons in jars, it is also a figment of an ancient tribe's history, culture, and mysteries unsolved

 |  2 min read

Jar Burials Photo Owned by Aya May Dayaoen

Hidden in the mountain slopes of Alab Oriente, Bontoc, Philippines is a sacred ground with three burial caves. Came to be known as the Ganga Caves, it became the resting place of more than a hundred people who were laid in fetal positions inside thick and heavy pinewood coffins. One of these caves is the home of what is now called Jar Burials. A burial rite that is only practiced in this part of the country's Cordillera Administrative Region as per existing archeological and anthropological evidences.

Jar Burials Photo Owned by Aya May Dayaoen

Close inspections reveal a set of skeletons in clay jars hidden inside the burial caves. The fact that other burial caves harbor remains in pinewood coffins presents a question as to why some are placed in jars. Since Bontoc rituals at present are grounded on customs, principles, and values expressed in affluence and materiality, it is believed by some that those buried in jars are special. Theories from the village stipulate that these jars are symbols of greatness or influence for the ancient people and so they used it for those of high status. Others, however, say that the remains are of infants or children due to their sizes.

Jar Bubrials Photo Owned by Aya May Dayaoen

No carbon dating was done to determine the age of the Jar Burials and no in-depth academic researches to cover the rituals were conducted to date. Further theories say that these were practiced at the same time that the land bridges or isthmus from the Land Bridge Theories existed. It is also believed that the ancient people who carved the Alab Petroglyphs which are over 3,000-year-old engravings in a boulder located within the same sacred grounds are the same people who are responsible for the Jar Burials.

Pinewood Coffins Photo Owned by Aya May Dayaoen

The history surrounding the Jar Burials is one that remains a mystery to both the locals and visitors. With the lack of studies, resources, and actions towards learning more about this ancient tradition, they remain, for now, as a small but significant piece of evidence of an olden tribe's existence, culture, and practices.

Article originally posted by the same author in Medium:

Sharing is caring, kailian!

We do hope you find something great in this story. If you find this helpful, please do share it with the people you care about.

Igorotage is a platform for people to share their thoughts and ideas. The views expressed on Igorotage are the opinions of the individual users, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Igorotage.


Sign in to share your thoughts. No account yet?

What to learn next?

You might also like to read more related articles filed under Rituals and Ceremonies — or jump to a random article!

Rituals and Ceremonies Surprise me

Phemarie Focasan: Igorota is Asia's Grandest Live Stream Competition 1st Runner-up

Phemarie Focasan, an Igorota from Bontoc, Mountain Province, is Yippi Asia's Grandest Live Stream Competition First Runner-up.

Oct 17, 2020 · 2 min read

Travel Alert: Bontoc-Baguio Road Not Passable - Safety Advisory | March 2024

As of March 06, 2024, the Bontoc-Baguio Road is closed due to a forest fire. Travelers must detour via Sagada-Balili for safety.

Mar 6 · 2 min read

Two Honest Bontoc Students Return P50,000 Cash to Rightful Owner

Witness the honest actions of two Bontoc students upholding Igorot values, returning P50,000 cash to its rightful owner.

Mar 5 · 5 min read

Bontoc, Mountain Province: Culture, Heritage, Beauty

Discover Bontoc in the Mountain Province, a hub of culture, heritage, and breathtaking landscapes. Plan your visit to this Philippine gem!

Sep 14, 2023 · 2 min read

This Wise Family in Bontoc Built Their House Upon a Rock

A family in Bontoc, Mountain Province has built an incredible house on a rock. The house is safe, sustainable, and stunningly beautiful.

Jul 31, 2023 · 3 min read

UK Covid Variant Detected in Bontoc, Mountain Province

BREAKING NEWS: 12 cases of UK coronavirus variant detected in Bontoc, Mountain Province.

Jan 22, 2021 · 1 min read

4-year-old positive for COVID-19 from Mankayan smuggled to Bontoc

A 4-year-old patient who tested positive for COVID-19 was allegedly smuggled from an isolation facility in Mankayan and taken home to Bontoc.

Dec 8, 2020 · 1 min read

Bontoc Elders perform "Manengtey" ritual as protection against COVID-19

Elders in Bontoc have performed a traditional ritual called "manengtey" to protect their community against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Mar 30, 2020 · 3 min read

Og-Ogfo in Action: A Miraculous Rescue in Bontoc

Witness the triumph of Og-Ogfo as Igorot communities collaborate in Allan Fagsao's rescue. A testament to mutual aid and resilience.

Jan 8 · 3 min read

Strengthening kinship ties thru binnadang or ug-ugbo

170 half-cavan sacks of rice were distributed by the Otucan Clan to the residents of Barangay Can-eo, Bontoc, Mountain Province.

Apr 27, 2020 · 2 min read