2018-05-02 17:26:53 UTC
Fossil remains of a butchered rhino on Luzon have been dated to circa
700,000 years ago, indicating that some species of genus homo had
settled the islands 600,000 years earlier than had been previously
"In what some scientists are calling a ³one-in-a-million find,²
archaeologists have discovered a cache of butchered rhino bones and
dozens of stone tools on the Philippines¹s largest island, Luzon. The
find pushes back the earliest evidence for human occupation of the
Philippines by more than 600,000 years, and it has archaeologists
wondering who exactly these ancient humans wereand how they crossed the
deep seas that surrounded that island and others in Southeast Asia.
³The only thing missing is the hominin fossil to go along with it,² says
archaeologist Adam Brumm, of Griffith University in Nathan, Australia.
He¹s the one who set the odds for what he calls a ³very exciting
discovery,² but he wasn¹t involved with the work.
Researchers found 75% of a fossilized rhino skeletonribs and leg bones
still scarred from the tools that removed their meat and marrowlying in
ancient mud that had long since buried an even older river channel. To
determine the site¹s age, researchers dated the enamel in one of the
rhino¹s teeth, as well as quartz grains embedded in the sediment layers
above and below the bones, using electron spin resonance (ESR), which
measures the buildup of electrons as a material is exposed to radiation
over time. The team dated the bottom sediment layer to about 727,000
years old, the rhino tooth to about 709,000 years old, and the top
sediment layer to about 701,000 years old. Several independent experts
say they were impressed by the team¹s careful use of the technique.
³They¹ve nailed it,² says Alistair Pike, an archaeological dating expert
at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom."
"So who were these ancient people? They couldn¹t 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, the team writes today
in Nature. H. erectus bones have been found in China and Java, so
researchers know they lived in Asia around the time the rhino was
butchered on Luzon. But Thomas Ingicco, a paleoarchaeologist at the
National Museum of Natural History in Paris who led the research,
doesn¹t want to jump to any conclusions without human bonesespecially
not in a region that already has yielded one big surprise for scientists
studying archaic humans.
Three thousand kilometers to the south, on the island of Flores in
Indonesia, archaeologists discovered H. floresiensis, a diminutive
archaic human species known as the hobbit. It lived from about 60,000 to
100,000 years ago and seems to have evolved its short stature, large
feet, and other distinctive traits because of its long isolation on
Flores. There¹s no evidence that the rhino butcherers on Luzon are the
ancestors of the hobbit, or connected to those unusual humans in any
way. But the discovery of H. floresiensis opened up the possibility that
there could be many hitherto unknown human species living and evolving
in Southeast Asia. ³In theory you could have something special on every
single island,² Ingicco says."