Big archaeology news from last week that has made news around the world as the announcement of a new identified human species from the Philippines, dubbed Homo luzonensis. The paper was published in Nature and it describes new bones discovered from the same stratigraphic later as the Callao Man, which was previously described as a diminutive human that lived in the Philippines 67,000 years ago. With the discovery of additional bones from at least three other individual, the team from France, the Philippines and Australia have enough data to describe it as a new species.
The discovery puts Philippine archaeology in the spotlight, with last year’s discovery of a fossil rhino with butcher marks dating more than 700,000 years old (see here and here). More excavations are being planned in Cagayan, and this discovery, along with the previous discovery of Homo floresiensis will put a lot of focus on human evolution and Southeast Asia’s role in it.
Here’s the link to the Nature paper, links to news articles below:
A hominin third metatarsal discovered in 2007 in Callao Cave (Northern Luzon, the Philippines) and dated to 67 thousand years ago provided the earliest direct evidence of a human presence in the Philippines. Analysis of this foot bone suggested that it belonged to the genus Homo, but to which species was unclear. Here we report the discovery of twelve additional hominin elements that represent at least three individuals that were found in the same stratigraphic layer of Callao Cave as the previously discovered metatarsal. These specimens display a combination of primitive and derived morphological features that is different from the combination of features found in other species in the genus Homo (including Homo floresiensis and Homo sapiens) and warrants their attribution to a new species, which we name Homo luzonensis. The presence of another and previously unknown hominin species east of the Wallace Line during the Late Pleistocene epoch underscores the importance of island Southeast Asia in the evolution of the genus Homo.
via GMA Online, 23 Mar 2019: Digitization project of the written records of the Maranao people of Southern Philippines.
The Grupo Kalinangan, Inc. (GKI) has digitized more than 10,000 pages of centuries-old manuscripts of Maranao Jawi and Kirim to preserve the heritage of the Maranao people, a project that began in May 2018.
Digitized copies of the manuscripts that were collected from Marawi city and around the towns of Lanao del Sur, contain genealogies of prominent families, religious books, treatises, epics and short stories that highlight some of the most important events in the history of the Maranao people.
via Palawan News, 17 Mar 2019: Ille Cave to be developed for tourism?
A technical team from the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS) is proposing to open the archeologically-important Ille Cave in Barangay New Ibajay, El Nido to tourists.
Presently classified as a Class I site which is closed to tourists, they are recommending the reclassification of the cave as Class II, to allow for “controlled tours and visits.”
The Ille Cave within the Dewil Valley in New Ibajay was enlisted as Class I under Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) Resolution No. 15-522 approved in 2015.
PCSDS spokesperson Jovic Fabello said Friday that under the classification, the cave may only be utilized for “mapping, photography, educational, and scientific purposes” due to its natural values and hazardous conditions.
via Inquirer, 11 March 2019: The previous story was good news, but this piece was bad news. A colonial cemetery site was illegally demolished last year in northern Philippines, and in its place is a stadium.
A cockpit arena now stands at the site of the Spanish-era cemetery of Balaoan in La Union following its demolition last year.
The circular cemetery together with the town’s convent was built by Fr. Casimiro Melgosa in 1877.
It was where the seven martyrs of Balaoan were executed by Spanish authorities during the 1896 Philippine revolution.
A descendant of one of those martyrs, Emilie Obaldo, a heritage advocate based in the United States, lamented the demolition.
“If this issue is a violation of any existing Philippine law protecting historical structures, then whoever demolished Balaoan’s public cemetery should be held accountable,” said Obaldo. (She is sister of mayoralty candidate General Pedro Obaldo Jr.
The “desecrated” cemetery, she said, “has been untouched for years, evident that it has always been a public property.” But it appears to have been transferred to private ownership.
via SunStar, 09 Mar 2019: The National Historical Commission of the Philippines halts the demolition of a 243-year-old watchtower in Southern Leyte.
THE National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) has issued a cease and desist order, suspending all activities affecting the 243-year-old watchtower within the campus of a private Catholic school in Maasin City.
“It has come to our attention that the proposed construction of buildings within the compound of Saint Joseph College will affect a Spanish-period watchtower,” said Dr. Rene Escalante, the NHCP chairman.
“The said structure being more than 50 years is a presumed Important Cultural Property (ICP). Under Republic Act 10066 or the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009, such ICPs must be protected from any modification or alteration,” Escalante added in a letter addressed to Bishop Precioso Cantillas of the Diocese of Maasin.
via The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology, 10 Feb 2019: Coastal Subsistence Strategies and Mangrove Swamp Evolution at Bubog I Rockshelter (Ilin Island, Mindoro, Philippines)
Clara Boulanger at al., https://doi.org/10.1080/15564894.2018.1531957
Subsistence adaptations to coastal environments and the capacity to take advantage of mangrove swamps has likely played an important role in the success of the maritime colonization of Southeast Asian and Wallacean islands by modern humans. Yet, ichthyoarchaeological studies remain rare in this part of the world. Bubog I rockshelter (Ilin Island, southwestern Mindoro, the Philippines) has yielded a stratigraphic filling extending from 30 ka to 4 ka, including a human-produced shell midden. Several remains from marine and terrestrial animals have been recovered from the site. We report here on an Australo-Melanesian subsistence behavior based on ichthyofaunal, crustacean, and large mammal remains. Their adaptation to successfully exploit different marine environments from open reef to mangrove swamps is demonstrated by the continuous presence of fishes from these marine zones throughout the stratigraphy and by the development of a range of fishing and foraging techniques. The increased hunting of Sus oliveri furthermore shows increased foraging in tropical rainforests after 6 ka. Interestingly, based on crustaceans analysis, mangrove foraging in Bubog I declined when the development of these swamps was at their maximum in other islands in the Philippines. Variability in subsistence strategies therefore appears to be a response to changing landscapes during the Pleistocene–Holocene transition with a strong marine specialization that only increased as mangrove habitats declined.
On behalf of Dr. Angel Bautista of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute, Please take a couple of minutes to fill up this survey to identify potential beneficiaries and to obtain supporting information for its proposal to establish an accelerator mass spectrometry facility in the Philippines.
via Town and Country PH, 21 January 2019: Clothing and symbols of power in pre-colonial Philippines.
While the Europeans considered gold and land as the standard of economic wealth especially in the age of mercantilism in the 1500s, the Filipino datus, who had a natural abundance of both land and gold in their domains, considered people to be the most important symbol of wealth and power. According to Abinales and Amoroso, this was the result of the Philippines’ abundance of natural resources and shortage of human resources.
It was crucial for datus to maintain control and accumulate dependents and alliances to maintain their power, around which society was built at the time.
via Spot.ph, 20 January 2019: Newly-declared heritage sites in the Philippines worth a visit.
Pindangan Ruins. Source: Christa I. De La Cruz, Spot.ph 20190120
Heritage sites will always deserve to be on everyone’s bucket list. It’s even better when they’re declared cultural treasures by international agencies or local groups, because the recognition not only helps highlight these places’ significance in our culture and history, but also helps in the preservation and protection of these awe-inspiring structures and natural wonders.
If you’ve already seen your fair share of local heritage sites, here’s a new list of recently declared National Cultural Treasures and Important Cultural Properties by the National Museum of the Philippines. Whether you’re visiting up north, traveling to Visayas and Mindanao, or even just looking for a fun weekend date, these places are worth a stop.
via Philippine Inquirer, 22 Dec 2018: An editorial by a friend Kate Tantuico on the recent return of the Balangiga Bells. Tantuico is also co-convening a session on Heritage Management Law and Policy in this year’s SPAFACON.
During deliberations for the Cultural Heritage Law of 2009 (Republic Act No. 10066), legislators observed that many of our cultural materials remain on display in museums abroad. The late senator Edgardo Angara said he himself saw many Philippine artifacts obtained from underwater sites in Southern Palawan on display in the Newberry Museum in Chicago. Sen. Richard Gordon also mentioned that cannons from Grande Island were taken by American forces and brought to the Smithsonian Institute, despite calls for their return by the people of Olongapo.
On a global scale, the return of colonial cultural materials to their now-sovereign countries of origin is ongoing. In 2015, the Nusantara Museum in Delft, the Netherlands, offered to return 14,000 colonial artifacts to our neighbor Indonesia, which they had ruled as the Dutch East Indies. In March 2018, President Emmanuel Macron of France met with Patrice Talon, his counterpart in the former French possession of Benin. Macron said France will be returning all artifacts taken from Africa, following persistent calls from various ethnic groups in Nigeria. And just last month, The British Museum and France’s Quai Branly Museum declared they will be returning the Benin Bronzes — a collection of sculptures — to Benin and Nigeria after decades of pressure from the latter.