MANILA, Philippines (AP) — “Archaeologists who discovered fossil bones and teeth of a previously unknown human species that thrived more than 50,000 years ago in the northern Philippines said Thursday they plan more diggings and called for better protection of the popular limestone cave complex where the remains were unearthed.”
Filipino archaeologist Armand Salvador Mijares said the discovery of the remains in Callao Cave in Cagayan province made the Philippines an important research ground on human evolution. The new species is called Homo luzonensis after the main northern island of Luzon, where the remains were dug up starting in 2007.
Beaming with pride, Mijares displayed the six fragments of bones from the feet, hands and thigh and seven teeth of three individuals from that bygone era in a news conference at the state-run University of the Philippines. Tests showed two of the fossil fragments had minimum ages of 50,000 years and 67,000 years, according to a study published by the scientific journal Nature.
The main exodus of modern man’s own species from Africa that all of today’s non-African people are descended from took place around 60,000 years ago.
Analysis of the bones from the Callao caves led the study authors to conclude they belonged to a previously unknown member of our “Homo” branch of the human family tree. One of the toe bones and the overall pattern of tooth shapes and sizes differ from what’s been seen before in the Homo family, the researchers said.
The fossil bones and teeth found about 3 meters (9.8 feet) below the ground in the cave show they belonged to small-bodied people. Bones of deer and related animals were found in the area, some with cut marks, suggesting they were butchered although there were no stone tools or sharp implements found in the immediate area where the human fossils were dug up, Mijares said.
Although the find contributes a new insight into modern man’s ancient beginnings, Dizon said it also raised new questions and deepened the mystery behind the evolution of man.
Nature. com – These bones belong to a new species of human
Scientists have found a few bones and seven teeth belonging to a previously unknown species of human. They’ve named the new species Homo luzonensis, after the island of Luzon in the Philippines where it was found. The bones are tiny, suggesting that Homo luzonensis was under 1.2 metres tall. That would make it the second species of diminutive human to be found in south-east Asia; in 2007 scientists announced the discovery of Homo floresiensis, found on the island of Flores in Indonesia and nicknamed the hobbit. Both species lived around 50,000 years ago, at a time when Asia was also home to our species, the Neanderthals, and a group called the Denisovans. The new species raises many questions, including who were its ancestors and how did it move?
[Nature.com – Abstract]
Hobbit histories: the origins of Homo floresiensis.
The origins of the species known as ‘the hobbit’ – a human relative only a little over a metre tall – have been debated ever since its discovery in 2004. Now new fossils may reveal the ancestors of this strange species and help us to understand its history.
For further reading: ‘Hobbit’ relatives found after 10-year hunt.
More than a decade after the discovery that a diminutive relative of modern humans once lived on the Indonesian island of Flores, Gerrit van den Bergh was losing faith that he would find any clues to the ancestors of the ‘hobbit’. It was October 2014, and for four years he had co-led an industrial-scale excavation near the cave where the metre-tall skeleton had been found. Then, weeks before packing it in for the year, a local worker found a 700,000-year-old molar. More teeth and a partial jaw quickly followed.