Earliest known hominin activity in the Philippines by 709 thousand years ago

Very exciting news out of the Philippines today, a paper published in Nature describes the discovery of stone tools and a butchered rhino fossil in the Cagayan Valley that dates to between 777,000 – 631,000 years ago. This early date forces us to rethink hominin capabilities in crossing water during the Pleistocene.

Earliest known hominin activity in the Philippines by 709 thousand years ago
Ingicco et al.
Nature, doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0072-8

Over 60 years ago, stone tools and remains of megafauna were discovered on the Southeast Asian islands of Flores, Sulawesi and Luzon, and a Middle Pleistocene colonization by Homo erectus was initially proposed to have occurred on these islands1,2,3,4. However, until the discovery of Homo floresiensis in 2003, claims of the presence of archaic hominins on Wallacean islands were hypothetical owing to the absence of in situ fossils and/or stone artefacts that were excavated from well-documented stratigraphic contexts, or because secure numerical dating methods of these sites were lacking. As a consequence, these claims were generally treated with scepticism5. Here we describe the results of recent excavations at Kalinga in the Cagayan Valley of northern Luzon in the Philippines that have yielded 57 stone tools associated with an almost-complete disarticulated skeleton of Rhinoceros philippinensis, which shows clear signs of butchery, together with other fossil fauna remains attributed to stegodon, Philippine brown deer, freshwater turtle and monitor lizard. All finds originate from a clay-rich bone bed that was dated to between 777 and 631 thousand years ago using electron-spin resonance methods that were applied to tooth enamel and fluvial quartz. This evidence pushes back the proven period of colonization6 of the Philippines by hundreds of thousands of years, and furthermore suggests that early overseas dispersal in Island South East Asia by premodern hominins took place several times during the Early and Middle Pleistocene stages1,2,3,4. The Philippines therefore may have had a central role in southward movements into Wallacea, not only of Pleistocene megafauna7, but also of archaic hominins.

Source: Earliest known hominin activity in the Philippines by 709 thousand years ago | Nature

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Archaeologists search for links between Philippines and the Northern Marianas

Some of my former colleagues are featured for their ongoing work in the Philippines investigating ancient links between the island and the northern Marianas.

Magapit Excavation in the Cagayan Valley, Philippines. Source: Marianas Variety 20150403
Magapit Excavation in the Cagayan Valley, Philippines. Source: Marianas Variety 20150403

Archaeologists return to Philippine site
Marianas Variety, 03 April 2015

THERE is growing evidence in support of a cultural tradition that binds the Philippines and the Northern Marianas.

Dr. Mike T. Carson and Dr. Hsiao-chun Hung are back in the Northern Philippines to explore further a site rich in shards of pottery suggestive of the earliest pottery-making tradition in the region.

Dr. Carson and Dr. Hung are in Magapit, Cagayan close to the border of Ilocos Norte, in the northern Philippines from March to April 2015.

Variety learned that the site which Dr. Carson referred to as the “Hilltop Site of Magapit,” is famous in world archaeology as a large mound of shell debris, in some places more than 5 meters high, containing abundant broken pottery that is highly distinctive and representative of the earliest pottery-making in the region.

Several research teams from Japan, the U.S., and the Philippines have worked there since the 1970s.

Dr. Carson told Variety yesterday, “Especially exciting right now is growing evidence that the highly distinctive decorated pottery of the Cagayan Valley was part of a special cultural tradition, found not only in the Cagayan Valley but also in other places.”

He said other sites in the northern through central Philippines have yielded pottery with similar decorations, although those sites have not yet been dated securely.

Full story here.

More excavations at Cagayan caves planned

Following the stunning discovery of a human foot bone in the Cagayan Valley, which indicated that humans were on the Philippine islands as early as 47,000 years ago, archaeologists from the Philippines are planning more excavations in the area to understand the early habitation of the archipelago.

Archaeologists plan more digs around Cagayan caves
The Inquirer, 05 August 2010
Continue reading “More excavations at Cagayan caves planned”