Worked shell from Leta Leta Cave, Palawan, Philippines
The Leta Leta Cave burial site is a distinctive and enigmatic site of the Philippine Neolithic, excavated by Robert Fox. Containing a number of burials, its unusual earthenware pottery — including the ‘yawning-mouth vessel’, small footed goblets and a cut-out pedestalled bowl — have seen it recognised in the Philippines as an official site of national significance. In addition to the human remains and earthenware, Fox recovered a sizeable assemblage of shell artefacts which, as with other material remains recovered from Leta Leta, were only cursorily reported in print before his death. Recent analysis of the Leta Leta worked shell has revealed the deposition of unfinished as well as finished shell artefacts in mortuary contexts. As well as giving rare insights into manufacturing protocols in an island where the Neolithic and Metal Age records are characterised virtually solely by mortuary deposits, the deposition of unfinished artefacts opens new avenues for the discussion of Neolithic mortuary practices in Palawan. Results of a study of the worked shell assemblage, in addition to recent radiocarbon determinations for the site, are presented here.
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