The huge Bolinao skull is only one of the skulls (51 adults and 8 children. Eight adults had inlaid teeth, a total of 67 inlaid teeth were found) found at the archaeological site of Balingasai in Bolinao, Pangasinan Scientists have dated the skull to the 14th-15th centuries AD, but are stubbornly trying not to discuss the strange shape of these skulls, as well as their huge size. The main emphasis in all researches is made only on the technique of inlaying teeth with gold. In appearance, the skull does not look like an ordinary human skull…
Interestingly, there were tombstones made of giant oyster shells (Ostrea malabonensis) above the graves. Clay vessels; spindles; metal daggers and spearheads; 11th century Chinese coins, glass beads, bronze and gold jewelry; and shell and bone accessories were found in the graves. Such funerary accessories often signified prestige and indicated the socio-political status of the deceased they accompanied.
I tried to find the exact dimensions of this skull (it is the only one with a full set of gold teeth), it is referred to in reports (scientific, research, archaeological) as a “huge skull”, but I was unable to find the exact dimensions. Even in the Philippine museum where it is kept, the dimensions of the teeth are listed, but not the skull and so everywhere else! Photos are taken so that it is impossible to understand the size of the skull, because there are no other objects in the frame by which one could understand its true size.
Let’s read what scientists write about these strange skulls:
The ancient natives of the Philippines left behind many riddles and mysteries. One such mystery is the Bolinao skull found in the coastal town of Bolinao in the Philippines. This unique find has attracted the attention of the scientific community and may shed light on the life and culture of early modern Philippine aborigines.
The Bolinao skull was discovered during an archaeological excavation led by the National Museum of the Philippines. It was found at the Balingasai site along with other skulls and pottery from the early Ming Dynasty in China. Scientists date the skull to between the 14th and 15th centuries AD. However, what makes this find truly unique?
The secret of the Bolinao skull lies in its dental ornaments made of gold. Numerous flecks of gold can be seen on the skull’s teeth, creating a stunning pattern reminiscent of fish scales. Scientists note that gold scales were observed on the cheek surfaces of the skull’s upper and lower incisors and fangs. This unique dental decoration measures approximately 10 millimeters wide and 11.5 millimeters high.
Researchers were intrigued by this jewel, which required great skill to create and was probably quite painful for its owner. Upon closer examination, it was discovered that holes had been drilled in the teeth, which were then filled with gold discs, corks, pins or wire. Each type of gold jewelry has its own unique appearance. This indicates that Bolinao’s skull had a stunning “shining” smile, but the procedure was probably extremely painful.
The Bolinao skull offers valuable information about the culture of the indigenous Bolinao tribes and the entire Pangasin region. Its discovery is strong evidence of the cultural development of the region in the Middle Ages, before the formation of the modern Philippines. Decorating teeth with gold was a common practice in the pre-Christian Philippines and was considered a symbol of prestige and beauty. Leaders and chiefs adorned their teeth with gold to emphasize their status and wealth.
The historical chronicles of the early explorers of the Philippines confirm this practice. Antonio Pigafetta, chronicler of Magellan’s 1521 expedition, described the jewelry worn by natives in the region. He recorded that one chief “had three specks of gold on each tooth,” and his teeth appeared to have been forged in gold.
With the arrival of the European colonists and the spread of Christianity, the practice of decorating teeth with gold gradually became a thing of the past. It was forgotten and buried under the influence of new cultural and religious traditions. However, the Bolinao skull reminds us of the rich and unique culture of the ancient Filipinos.
The Bolinao skull is not only an archaeological find, but also a key to understanding the history and culture of the Philippines. It helps us learn about the life and customs of the ancient natives, their migrations and cultural evolution. This unique find offers new horizons for archaeology and the study of the Philippine past.