Image Courtesy: Sci-news.com. Image for representational use oly.
How old are the humans? Following this question has been a priority for the anthropology and archaeology researchers since the advent of these fields. Thanks to this body of research that could bring out myriads of aspects of the evolution, origin and development of our species. Now a latest finding has suggested that there existed an early human species with a unique mix of primitive (Australopithecus like) and derived (Homo sapiens like) morphological features. This unique species of early humans lived in the Callao Cave of the Philippines.
The new species has been named as luzonensis, after Luzon Island where the Callao Cave is.
The finding has been reported in Nature. As reported in the publication, the team led by Professor Philip Piper of Australian National University was able to find the remains of at least two adults and one juvenile within the same archaeological deposits. The fossils included adult finger and toe bones and teeth as well. The team also claimed to have recovered the femur of a child. Femur is the bone of the thigh or upper hindlimb.
Among the interesting features of the fossils, as described by Professor Pihilp Piper, is the small size of the teeth recovered. “The size of the teeth generally, though not always, reflects the overall body-size of a mammal, so we think Homo luzonensis was probably relatively small,” he said.
Researchers do not appear to be very sure about how small the species was in size. For this, they would need more skeletal elements from which the measurement of body-size would be more precise.
The hand and feet bones recovered are remarkably Australopithecine-like. The Australopithecines were there on the earth about 2 million years ago in Africa. These archaic species are considered to be the ancestors of the Homo group, which includes modern humans.
“So, the question is whether some of these features evolved as adaptations to island life, or whether they are anatomical traits passed down to Homo luzonensis from their ancestors over the preceding 2 million years,” said Professor Piper.
Interestingly enough, Homo Luzonensis also shares some unique skeletal features with the famous Homo floresiensis, which was discovered on the Indonesian Island of Flores.
Archaic Hominins Arrived in the Philippines some 7, 00,000 Years Back?
Regarding the origin of Homo Luzonensis and their longevity in the Luzon Island, there are plenty of questions that remained unanswered. In this context, what the recent excavations in the Cagayan Valley, nearby to the Luzon Island reveals is of much interest. The Cagayan Valley excavations revealed that archaic hominins could have arrived in the Philippines some 7,00,000 years back. These excavations unearthed butchered rhinoceros bones and stone tools belonging to that period. Now it needs to be confirmed whether it was the Homo Luzonensis that butchered the rhinoceros. It’s worth mentioning that that the Cagayan excavations no hominin fossils were found. Thus, the new findings of open up the possibility that the stone tool containing archaic species could be Homo luzonensis. This also provides a timeframe for an archaic hominin presence on Luzon.
Finding of the new archaic human species in the Philippines make the region really significant from the perspective of human evolution and ancient human migration. Philippines have several Islands that are separated long enough that potentially could have given rise to archipelago speciation.
In addition, stone tools of almost 2,00,000 years old have been recovered from the Island of Sulawesi, Indonesia, suggesting that ancient hominins could have inhabited many of the large Islands of Southeast Asia.