Potential new species of human found in cave in Philippines

Christopher Davidson
April 13, 2019

In addition to Homo luzonensis, island South-East Asia also appears to have been home to another human species called the Denisovans, who appear to have interbred with early modern humans (Homo sapiens) when they arrived in the region.

In 2003, fossils of another island-dwelling species - Homo floresiensis, dubbed the "Hobbit" due to its diminutive size - were unearthed in a cave on the Indonesian island of Flores, some 3,000 km from the Luzon site.

Homo luzonensis has some physical similarities to recent humans, but in other features hark back to the australopithecines, upright-walking ape-like creatures that lived in Africa between two and four million years ago, as well as very early members of the genus Homo.

Beaming with pride, Mijares displayed the six fragments of bones from the feet, hands and thigh, and seven teeth of three individuals from that bygone era in a news conference at the state-run University of the Philippines.

The already entangled branches of human evolution have a new development.

This undated photo provided by the Callao Cave Archaeology Project in April 2019 shows Callao Cave on Luzon Island of the Philippines, where the fossils of Homo luzonensis were discovered.

But some human relative was on Luzon more than 700,000 years ago, as indicated by the presence of stone tools and a butchered rhino dating to that time, he said.

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Testing revealed that the specimens lived at least 50,000 to 67,000 years ago, during the Late Pleistocene epoch, when the world swung between ice ages and warmer times. The ancient humans may have been brought there by a natural disaster such a as tsunami, but it's possible they set out to sea intentionally using some form of a raft.

Mijares, who led a small team of foreign and local archaeologists behind the rare discovery, said he plans to resume the diggings next year and hopes to find larger fossil bones, artifacts, and possibly stone tools used by people in those times.

"It's a mixture that we haven't seen in other species", said Detroit.

The discovery of Homo luzonensis "provides yet more evidence that hints that H. erectus might not have been the only globe-trotting early hominin", wrote Tocheri.

Filipino archeologists searching Callao Cave for fossil bones and teeth found in the northern Philippines. "Before, we're just peripheral in this debate of human evolution". But other researchers have argued that the Hobbits were descended from Homo erectus but that some of their anatomy reverted to a more primitive state.

The causes of the species' demise are another open question, said the head of human origins research at London's Natural History Museum, Chris Stringer, adding that the growth of other human species in the area could have played a role.

The discovery of Homo floresiensis and Homo luzonensis "really exposes how little we know about human evolution in Asia", Tocheri said.

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