Laguna Copperplate Inscription

The Laguna Copperplate Inscription (key) is inscribed with small writing hammered into its surface. It shows heavy Indian cultural influence (by way of Srivijaya) present in the Philippines prior to European colonization in the 16th century.

The Laguna Copperplate Inscription ( Filipino: Inskripsyon sa Binatbat na Tanso ng Laguna, Malay: Prasasti keping tembaga Laguna; often shortened into the acronym LCI), a legal document inscribed on a copper plate in 900 AD, is the earliest known written document found in the Philippines.

The plate was found in 1989 by a laborer near the mouth of the Lumbang River in Wawa barangay, Lumban municipality, Laguna province. The inscription, written in a mix of the Old Malay language using the Old Kawi script, was first deciphered by Dutch anthropologist and Hanunó'o script expert Antoon Postma in 1992. [1] [2]

The LCI documents the existence of several early Philippine polities as early as 900 AD, most notably the Pasig River delta polity of Tondo. [1] Scholars believe that it also indicates trade, cultural, and possibly political ties between these polities and at least one contemporaneous Asian civilization—the Medang Kingdom of the island of Java. [1]

The inscription was written in Kawi script—a writing system developed in Java, and using a mixture of languages including Sanskrit, Old Javanese, Old Malay and Old Tagalog. This was a rare trace of Javanese influence, which suggests the extent of interinsular exchanges of that time. [3]

Discovery and provenance

The actual image of the LCI found in Lumbang River.

The Laguna Copperplate Inscription was found in 1989 near the mouth of the Lumbang River near Laguna de Bay, [4] by a man who was dredging sand to turn into concrete. Suspecting that the artifact might have some value, the man sold it to an antique dealer who, having found no buyers, eventually sold it to the National Museum of the Philippines, where it was assigned to Alfredo E. Evangelista, head of its anthropology department. [5] [6]

A year later, Antoon Postma noted that the inscription was similar to the ancient Indonesian script of Kawi. Postma translated the script and found the document dated itself to the Saka year 822, an old Hindu calendar date which corresponds to 900 AD. [7] This meant that the document pre-dated the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 and is from about the same time as the mention of the Philippines in the official Chinese Song dynasty History of Song for the year 972. [8]