Ancient bone find may change Filipino history

A 67,000-year-old foot bone found in the Philippines
Professor Armand Mijares, an achaeologist from the University of the Philippines, holds up a 67,000-year-old foot bone. The bone could prove that the Philippines was first settled some 67,000 years ago, thousands of years earlier than previously thought.

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 Tuesday.

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 AFP.

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

Their report on "Callao Man" was released in the latest edition of the after tests in France established the fossil's age, said professor Armand Mijares, the expedition leader.

"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."

Cut marks on bones of deer and wild boar found around it suggest Callao Man could have hunted and was skilled with tools, although no cutting or other implements were found during the dig, according to Mijares.

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

Mijares 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 from humans.

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

Homo habilis is considered a predecessor to Homo sapiens while is thought to be a short, human-like species that once existed on an in the Late Pleistocene stage.

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.

The discovery also suggests that raft or boat-building crafts would have been around at that time.

"The hypothesis 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.

Tabon Man, the fossilised fragments of a skull and jawbone from 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.

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(c) 2010 AFP

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Aug 03, 2010
The older the better - more prestige associated with it. Unfortunately that's how it works. My bone is older than yours.

How did they date the bone? It's not stated in the article as far as I can see at a glimpse.

Aug 04, 2010
One website has this
Mijares said they were able to approximate its age through a method called “uranium-series dating."
Another has this
Its carbon dating puts it at approximately 67,000 years old.
Since the first was quoting the researcher it is more likely. However I have absolutely no trust of Philippino archeologists after the outright fraud that took place previously there without some serious signs of testing by reliable labs.


Which gives a half-life for the isotope of thorium used as 75,000 years. Which, I suspect, might make the dating iffy at that time range. Also from what I can see of the technique they likely were dating the cave. They sure weren't dating the bone itself.

I would like to see more information on the dating techniques used.

Some of the other articles had really weird speculation at the end. Looked like nationalism might have been getting in the way of reality. Piltdown anyone?


Aug 04, 2010
They used U-series ablation.

I'm not a fan of the sloppy wording in these articles, though. This doesn't prove the Philippines was first settled at any time, it proves the Philippines had homo sapiens (or habilis, or floresiensis) 65-67k years ago. There's no reason either species couldn't have been there earlier.

Aug 04, 2010
I should note that this isn't my field, and I'm not at all familiar with these researchers, but they seem particularly cautious in the actual paper.

They used a lot of qualifiers and don't seem to be trying to make any large, sweeping claims. They know damned well this could be any small-bodied hominid, and they expressed that well.

Aug 06, 2010
This hominid could also have been a scavenger, rather than a hunter.
I'd like to see how the dating is being done.

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