University of the Philippines-led international archaeology team discovers new human species Homo luzonensis in Callao Cave

Figure 1. left Location of Callao Cave in north of Luzon Island (Philippines) which has never been accessible by foot from the Asian continent during the Quaternary epoch (medium gray and light gray tones indicate the extension of the emerged lands at lower sea levels of 50 and 120 m respectively), right left: View of the excavations of Callao Cave in 2011. Credit: Nature via Armand Mijares

University of the Philippines (UP) professor Armand Salvador B. Mijares today presented to media the findings of an international multidisciplinary team’s discovery of a new hominin species, Homo luzonensis, a new human species contemporaneous with Homo sapiens dubbed “Ubag” (nickname from a mythical cave man).

The Callao Cave Archaeology Project report received by Good News Pilipinas states the fossils of Ubag are the “earliest known human remains in the Philippines, preceding the first Homo sapiens dated to 30 to 40,000 years ago discovered on Palawan Island, southwest of the archipelago.”

The Filipino professor from UP, the state university that consistently ranks in the world as the top school in the Philippines, together with the international team found Ubag’s fossils during the excavation of Callao Cave, situated on Luzon island, Northern Philippines.

UP Archaeological Studies Program Associate Professor Armand Mijares headed the Callao Cave Archeology Project in collaboration with MNHN senior lecturer of the H & E department, Florent Détroit.

The project findings state the new species Homo luzonensis (named after the Luzon island where it was found) is an “assemblage of fossil bones and teeth that belonged to at least 3 different individuals discovered during the excavations carried out in Callao Cave in 2007, 2011 and 2015.”

Ubag’s fossils were found on a sedimentary level located nearly 3m below the current surface of the cave floor, and two of these have been dated directly to 50,000 and 67,000 years by the Uranium series analysis.

Figure 2. The different fossils remains of Homo luzonensis from Late Pleistocene sediments at Callao Cave. a, holotype CCH6: postcanine maxillary teeth in occlusal (left) and buccal (right) aspects, b, left P3 or P4 CCH8: occlusal (left) and buccal (right) aspects, c, right M3 CCH9: occlusal (top) and buccal (bottom) aspects d, juvenile femoral shaft CCH7 (anterior, lateral, posterior aspects. e, distal manual phalanx CCH5 (dorsal, lateral/medial, palmar aspects) f, intermediate manual phalanx CCH2 (dorsal, lateral, palmar aspects).g, 3rd metatarsal discovered in 2007 h, intermediate pedal phalanx CCH3 (dorsal, medial, plantar aspect)..) i, proximal pedal phalanx CCH4 (dorsal, lateral).

The Filipino-led project’s findings were published by Nature International Journal of Science, after going through comparative analyses, using 3D imaging methods and geometric morphometrics that show the species Homo luzonensis has “very primitive elements or characters, resembling Australopithecus, and others very modern, close to our own species Homo sapiens.”

The Callao Cave Archaeology Project is primarily funded by Wenner-Gren Foundation, Leakey Foundation Research Grant, and the University of the Philippines System, in cooperation with the National Museum of the Philippines, Cagayan Provincial Government, and the Protected Area Management Board-Peñablanca.

WATCH this Nature Video of the Filipino-led archaeological discovery of Ubag, the Homo luzonensis species, and tell us what you think of this amazing discovery in the Philippines!

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Angie is a self-confessed reformed news critic who vows she has finally found infinite value in delivering the good news. She teaches students of all ages how to make the important interesting for audiences across media platforms.