MANILA, May 3 (Xinhua) -- The National Museum of the Philippines announced on Thursday the publication of a study that has established early human presence in the Philippines as long as 709,000 years ago.
"The National Museum takes great pleasure in announcing the publication of the paper Earliest known hominin activity in the Philippines by 709,000 years ago,' in the May 10, 2018 issue of the journal Nature," the national museum said in a post on its Facebook account.
"This journal article discusses the discovery of the oldest evidence for the peopling of the Philippines by hominins or species generally of the genus Homo, including Homo sapiens or modern humans, by an international team of prehistorians led by Dr. Thomas Ingicco from the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, France, with Clyde Jago-on, Catherine King, Marian Reyes, and Angel Bautista from the National Museum, Philippines, among others from different institutions around the world," the statement read.
It said the archaeological excavations in Rizal, a town in Kalinga province, which have been ongoing for the last several years, in 2017 yielded animal remains including an almost complete skeleton of Rhinoceros philippinensis, stone tools and a tektite.
"The rhinoceros remains showed butchery marks (like) cutmarks and percussion marks, suggesting defleshing and bone marrow extraction," the statement said.
"All these archaeological findings are indirect evidence for a very old presence of early humans on the island of Luzon far beyond the former earliest published evidence of 67,000 years relating to a hominid bone fragment from Callao Cave in Cagayan," the statement said, referring to the province in the Philippine main Luzon island.
"An early presence in the Philippine archipelago has been hypothesized since the 191000s, with the reporting of presumably Pleistocene megafaunal remains and 'Palaeolithic' industries consisting of chopping tools and flakes from surface finds and excavations in the Cagayan Valley basin of northern Luzon," says an online version of the article published on Thursday.
Despite the fact that these early discoveries took place more than 1000 years ago, the paper says "no direct association between megafauna and lithic industries has been documented since then, and no secure numerical dating of both fossil fauna and lithics has been available for this region."
In 2013, the paper says a survey of the Cagayan Valley near the Rizal Municipality in Kalinga Province led to the discovery of a concentration of vertebrate bones and stone artefacts scattered on the surface near what became our new excavation site.
"The Kalinga site has been excavated annually since 2014 and has resulted in the discovery of in situ megafauna and associated stone artefacts. The substrate consists of the upper part of the Awidon Mesa Formation, a 1000-m thick sequence of alluvial stream deposits (mainly sandstones and claystones) intercalated with volcaniclastic and pyroclastic layers," the paper says.
"These sediments were deposited on an alluvial fan system in braided streams of the paleo-Chico River as a consequence of uplift in the Central Cordillera to the west. During a poorly constrained Pleistocene phase of folding in response to east-west compression, alluvial fan deposition in the Kalinga area came to a halt," according to the paper.
"Our excavations at Kalinga and the numeric dating results clearly provide securely dated evidence for human colonization of the Philippines by the early Middle Pleistocene epoch, and long before the appearance of modern humans in both the local context and wider Island South East Asia region," the paper concludes.
Although the identity of these archaic toolmakers remains unknown, it says "it is likely that they dispersed over at least one sea barrier to reach Luzon Island."
The national museum said the release of this journal article "has already swiftly generated international interest, and its findings are indeed of the highest importance to the prehistory of the Philippine islands and the remote origins of the peoples who came to inhabit them."