Mathematical and Anthropological Analysis of Northern Luzon Funeral Textile

 Ma. Louise Antonette N. De Las Peñas* and Analyn V. Salvador-Amores**

*Department of Mathematics, Ateneo de Manila University
Loyola Heights, 1108 Quezon City, Philippines
**Department of Social Anthropology, University of the Philippines Baguio,
Gov. Pack Road, 2600 Baguio City, Philippines

corresponding author: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


The study presents a mathematical analysis and provides an anthropological perspective of the funeral textile of the indigenous communities in northern Luzon, Philippines. In particular, a symmetry analysis is performed, based on principles of group theory and transformation geometry, on the various repeating patterns found in funeral garments and blankets. Results show that particular frieze groups and plane crystallographic groups are favored due to choice of motifs which are reflective of cultural beliefs and funeral traditions, as well as weaving style and methodology. The results of the analysis point to the depth of mathematics present in the work of the weaver, who is able to arrive at meaningful geometric designs without formal training in mathematics. This study contributes directly to the branch of mathematics pertaining to mathematical crystallography in art and cultural heritage which deals, among others, with the use of group theoretic methods and tools in mathematical crystallography to understand the mathematics in artworks arising from various cultures all over the world. It provides further data and analysis to the growing body of literature that uses symmetry to enhance interpretation of culture from the artistic style of its artifacts.



The Cordillera region of northern Luzon is home to distinct ethnolinguistic groups who have a long history of producing textiles used in varied ways for clothing, rituals, and trade. These are the Kalinga, Ifugao, Bontoc, Ga’dang, Kankana-ey, Ibaloy, and Itneg among others (Figure 1a). The Itneg have been given the archaic exonym Tingguian, which the Spaniards used to refer to the “mountain people” found in the interiors of Abra, Ilocos Sur, and Ilocos Norte.

Throughout the Cordillera region, the different ethnolinguistic groups use textiles for funerary rituals. A common practice requires a fabric to wrap the deceased. As Ellis (1981) suggests, “textiles permeate all stages of the life cycle, from conception to death”. . . . . read more