Preliminary Assessment on Dental Morphological Features and Associated Cultural Practice of Bolinao Cranium and Mandible (I-1964-F-57) from Balingasay Archaeological Site in Bolinao, Pangasinan, Philippines: It’s Role in Understanding 14th-15th Century Philippines and Ethical Considerations in Biological Anthropology Research on Human Osteological Samples

Catherine Alice D. Ramos & Mary Jane Louise A. Bolunia

National Museum of the Philippines, Philippines

Preliminary assessment on the dentition of the Bolinao cranium and mandible (I-1964-F-57), a National Cultural Treasure, was briefly conducted at the Robert Fox National Archaeological Repository of the National Museum of the Philippines. It was conducted in two parts in consideration of the physical condition of the sample, National Cultural Treasure status, and being the sole “intact” human osteological sample from the Balingasay site. The first part consisted of initial activities related to physical examination of the sample, photo-documentation, and components analysis with the assistance of a chemical engineer-conservator. The second part is continuing visual assessment based on high-resolution photographs by a media production specialist. The individual has a dental formula of 2-1-2-3 / 2-1-2-3, exhibiting slight malocclusion, attrition, fully developed third molars, and shovelling, and a presence of gold work resembling fish scales on the labial aspect of the anterior teeth (maxillary and mandibular incisors and canines). Premolar rotation, carious lesions in cusp 4, cusp 5, and cusp 6 were also observed. The maxillary anterior teeth have gold discs attached on the labial surface ranging from 3 to 9, while the mandibular anterior teeth have 3 gold discs on each. XRF analysis provided an initial result on the composition of the gold used on the anterior teeth. This study has the potential to become a full research project, which may help us gain better understanding of “Bolinao Skull” while potentially providing us with a glimpse of Pre-Spanish Philippines. However, it is important to keep in mind that I-1964-F-57 was once a living member of society—not just a mere archaeological specimen and shall be treated appropriately. Careful planning and being mindful of applicable methodologies are recommended for the sake of conservation and in consideration of the next generation of researchers. Preliminary results and proposed potential studies are available in this paper.