|12 August 2010
67,000-year-old human bone unearthed in Philippines
Archaeologists have found a foot bone that could prove the Philippines was first settled by humans 67,000 years ago, thousands of years earlier than previously thought. The foot bone - found during a four-year excavation project of a network of caves - predates the 47,000-year-old Tabon Man that was previously known as the first human to have lived in the Philippines. The discovery was made at the Callao caves near Penablanca, about 335 kilometres (210 miles) north of Manila.
"So far this could be the earliest human fossil found in the Asia-Pacific region," Professor Armand Mijares, of the University of the Philippines Diliman, who led the team of archeologists, said. Prof Mijares said the evidence suggested that Callao Man or his ancestors reached Luzon in the Philippine archipelago by raft at a time when experts did not think humans were capable of travelling long distances by sea. Cut marks on bones from deer and wild boar that were found around the human remains suggest that Callao Man was an accomplished hunter, he said, although no tools were found during the dig.
"This individual was small-bodied. It's difficult to say whether he was male or female," Mijares said. The archaeologist stressed the finding that Callao Man belongs to Homo sapiens was still only provisional. Some of the bone's features were similar to Homo habilis and Homo floresiensis - which are distinct species from humans.
Archaeologists from the University of the Philippines and the National Museum dug up the third metatarsal bone of the right foot in 2007, but it has taken three years to work out the age of the 2.4 inch bone, using a method called uranium series dating, which has been carried out in France.
To determine whether Callao Man was human, Mijares said his team planned to secure permits to pursue further excavations in the Callao caves and hopefully find other parts of the skeleton, tools, or fossils of other potential humans.
Mijares said Callao Man also shared some features of today's Aetas, a short, curly-haired and dark-skinned people who are thought to be directly descended from the first inhabitants of the Philippines.
Sources: Telegraph.co.uk, AFP, Yahoo! News (3 August 2010)
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