The Archaeology and Meaning of the Boat-shaped Stone Markers in Vuhus Island, Batanes Province, Northern Philippines
The islands of Batanes have been the subject of a number of archaeological studies that have contributed to our present understanding of the early history of the area. One of the most important discovery that came out of the research are the boat-shaped stone markers in Vuhus Island. This paper provides a detailed summary of the results of the surveys and excavations conducted by the National Museum of the Philippines on these archaeological features. It further explores their possible symbolic significance to the early inhabitants of Vuhus by relating it to the widely shared symbolic association of boats and death in the Philippines and rest of Island Southeast Asia. This paper illustrates that the boat-shaped stone markers in Vuhus present a cosmological narrative, typical of many Austronesian-speaking societies within the region, that involves a maritime journey of a deceased person's soul to the land of the dead by boat. It also argues for the possibility that these archaeological features are markers of social status in the precolonial society of the Ivatans.
Keywords: boat symbolism, burial practices, cosmology, Batanes