Burial urn

This limestone jar probably once contained human bones. It was discovered in a cave in Cotabato province, Mindanao. The rather small size of the jar indicates that the bodies of the deceased had decomposed before the bones were placed within it. A tradition of jar burials existed in the Philippines from the early Neolithic period and continues in some parts of Southeast Asia to the present day.

Burial urns generally come in two shapes: circular and square in section. Typically, they are adorned with simple motifs such as zigzag, diamond, and other geometric patterns. A common decoration on the lid is a three-dimensional human head and arms. In this example, the face is quite detailed. The eyes and nostrils were drilled. The headband with a triangular element above the forehead may have indicated the status of the deceased.

Two-tiered chest with stand

Two- or three-tiered chests inlaid with mother-of-pearl were an integral element of elite Korean women’s quarters, which during the Joseon dynasty were separated from the men’s. Women’s rooms served both as spaces for women and as centers of family activity. Chests for women’s rooms, therefore, were made in a warm style with bright colors in order to create a pleasant family atmosphere. While most men preferred simple furniture made of undecorated wood, most women preferred lacquered furniture lavishly inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Women of affluent families tended to favor expensive red lacquer chests like this one over the more commonplace black ones. Similar red-lacquered chests inlaid with mother-of-pearl were used by women at the Joseon court.

The tiers of this chest are embellished with identical designs: landscapes with figures, chrysanthemum motifs, and simplified lotus flowers splendidly inlaid with mother-of-pearl. The tiers can be arranged side by side or on top of each other. Women used chests such as this to store clothing and other personal items.