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Ancient bone find may change human history

The bone, found in an extensive cave network, predates the 47,000-year-old Tabon Man.

Manila: 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 National Museum said.

The bone, found in an extensive cave network, predates the 47,000-year-old Tabon Man that is previously known as the first human to have lived in the country, said Taj Vitales, a researcher with the museum`s archaeology section.

"This would make it the oldest human remains ever found in the Philippines," Vitales told a news agency.

A team of archaeologists from the University of the Philippines and the National Museum dug up the third metatarsal bone of the foot in 2007 in the Callao caves near Penablanca, about 335 kilometres (210 miles) north of Manila.

Their report on what is now known as Callao Man was released in the latest editions of the Journal of Human Evolution after tests in France set the fossil`s age, said professor Armand Mijares, the expedition leader.

"This individual was small-bodied. It`s difficult to say whether he was male or female," he said.

Cut marks on deer and wild boar bones found around it suggest this individual could have hunted and was skilled with tools.

"It broke the barriers," Mijares said, explaining that previous evidence put the first human settlements in the Philippines and nearby islands around Tabon Man.

"It pushed that back to nearly 70,000 years."

However Mijares said the finding of it being a Homo sapien was still only provisional because some of the bone`s features were similar to Homo habilis and Homo floresiensis -- which are distinct species from a human.

Existing evidence suggests modern man, or Homo sapiens, first appeared in Africa about 200,000 years ago.

Mijares said his find shared many, but not all, of the features of the Aetas, a short, curly-haired and dark-skinned people who are thought to be directly descended from the first inhabitants of the Philippines.

It also suggests raft and boat-building crafts would have been around at that time. "You have to cross the open sea and you cannot do that without the skills in raft or boat building," Mijares said.

"The hyphotesis is that the Philippines, which is surrounded by bodies of water, was first reached by humans aboard rafts," Vitales said.

But he said there was no consensus on whether the first settlers came from mainland Asia, neighbouring Southeast Asian islands or elsewhere.

Archaeologists have been exploring the Callao Caves system since the 1970s. "Generally caves are used as habitations and burial sites," Vitales said.

Mijares said his team planned to secure permits and personnel to pursue further excavations in the Callao caves.

Tabon Man, the fossilised fragments of a skull and jawbone of three individuals, was discovered along with stone flake tools by a National Museum team in a cave on the western Philippine island of Palawan in May 1962.

Bureau Report

From Zee News

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