Archeological artifacts were unearthed sometime in May from Kalinga, a province found in the Philippines. A team led by Thomas Ingicco didn’t find any human skeletons or bones but instead dug up several human tools used for butchering including an extinct fossilized carcass of a rhinoceros.
On a journal published by Nature, it estimated the earliest Hominin activity in the Philippines further by 709 thousand years.
The results of recent excavations yielded 57 stone tools associated with an almost-complete fossilized skeleton of Rhinoceros philippinensis, which shows clear signs of butchery, together with other fossil fauna remains attributed to stegodon, Philippine brown deer, freshwater turtle and monitor lizard. All these artifacts were originated presumably from a clay-rich bone bed that was dated to between 777 and 631 thousand years ago. This evidence pushes back the proven period of colonization of the Philippines by hundreds of thousands of years, and further suggests that early overseas dispersal in Island Southeast Asia by pre modern hominins took place several times during the Early and Middle Pleistocene stages.
The work is published by an international research team composed of French, Filipino, Australian and Dutch scientists.
Before this discovery, the most recent indicator that early humans, or hominins, were found living on this Earth, had been on a single foot bone coming from the Callao Man dated 67,000 years ago, uncovered in the Callao Cave in Luzon.
Armand Mijares, the expedition leader during the Callao discovery said, Aetas who share same features as the Callao man resemble short, curly-haired and dark-skinned people who are thought to be directly descended from the first inhabitants of the Philippines.
The Hobbit trail
Luzon isn’t the first to produce such ancient evidence. In 2003, Indonesian and Australian archaeologists uncovered skeletal remains and ancient tools on the island of Flores. The bones were so strange and primitive, that scientists named a new species, Homo floresiensis.
Most people know them by their nickname, the “hobbits”, due to their severe short stature resembling dwarfs.
The best-known fossil specimens from Flores come from Liang Bua cave found in Indonesia, where they are between around 100,000 and 60,000 years old. Scientists called her “Flo”, and she was like nothing they had ever seen. She had a skeleton which had a tiny brain, a small body, elongated feet and toes, and apelike wrist bones.
Earliest evidence of Human existence by far
The find pushes back the earliest evidence for human occupation of the Philippines by more than 600,000 years, and archaeologists are wondering who exactly these ancient humans were—and how they crossed the deep seas that surrounded the island among countless others in Southeast Asia.
They couldn’t have been our own species, Homo sapiens, which evolved in Africa hundreds of thousands of years later. The most likely bet is H. erectus, an archaic human species that first evolved nearly 2 million years ago and may have been the first member of our genus to expand out of Africa. H. erectus bones have been found in China and Java, so researchers know they that lived in Asia around the time the rhino was butchered on Luzon.
These people were usually referred to as ‘Archaic Hominins’ used to name very extinct humans.
Two hypotheses account for the evolutionary origin of Homo floresiensis.
The first is that Hobbits descended directly from Homo erectus, or “Java Man”, an archaic Asian hominin mostly similar in stature to us. A small population of Homo erectus, is thought to have shrunk in body size in Flores.
The second hypothesis is that the ancestral origin of Homo floresiensis was an even more ancient hominin that was pint-sized to begin with. Candidates include Homo habilis or an Australopithecine, both known only from the fossil record obtained from Africa.
Stone tools used for Butchering
Unfortunately, without fossil skeletons belonging to the mystery rhino-eaters, there's no way to identify them.
The evidence of fossil remains from the Philippines raised mysteries as to how these early humans and animals have arrived from the islands.
Researchers found 75% of the fossilized rhino skeleton—ribs and leg bones still attached from the tools that removed their meat and marrow—covered in ancient mud that had long since buried in an even older river channel.
Marks on the bones indicated slicing with sharp-edged stone tools, showing that hominins removed flesh and fat from this large animal which they either slaughtered or found recently deceased.
Three-quarters of bones — the most intact skeleton found of the now-extinct Rhinoceros philippinensis.
Incredibly, 13 of its bones showed clear cut marks. Two leg bones looked like they had been smashed — one was completely shattered — presumably to get at the marrow inside.
The Hobbits have invaded the Earth
The oldest stone tools found on Flores dates back at least one million years. The earliest hominin fossils from this island are 700,000 years old and belong to a Hobbit-like population that may be directly related to Homo floresiensis.
In 2016, two studies published in Nature described a partial lower jaw and six teeth, belonging to at least one adult and two children, dating to around 700,000 years ago. The fossils show how the hobbits' regular-sized ancestors "rapidly" shrank to about 3.2 feet high.
The Flores fossils suggest that the hominins cut off on this Wallacean island survived for hundreds of millennia and underwent a series of unexpected evolutionary changes, including shrinking dramatically in both body and brain size.
As far as the discovery of these ancient fossils, much more is yet needed to uncover to further grant the claims of unsolved questions about the existence of our prehistoric ancestors and how they evolved through time.