A mysterious human ancestor existed in the Philippines some 700,000 years ago, and used relatively advanced tools to butcher rhinos, experts have found.
The discovery of a new set of tools and other pieces of evidence has revealed that ancient human relatives lived in parts of South East Asia hundreds of thousands of years earlier than experts believed possible.
Researchers uncovered traces of more than 50 stone tools and a nearly complete rhino skeleton bearing clear marks of having been butchered in the distant past.
According to experts, the rhinoceros skeleton dates back 709,000 years.
The discovery comes as a surprise as previously, the earliest evidence of human habitation in the region—to the north of Luzon Island—had been a small foot bone found in a cave, dating back around 70,000 years.
Finding evidence of human occupation 700,000 years ago is a history-changer.
The tools discovered by experts consist of 49 sharp-edged stone flakes, six cores, and two pieces which are believed to be hammer stones.
Furthermore, scientists also discovered a number of skeletons at the site, including that of a Stegodon, brown deer, freshwater turtle, and monitor lizard.
However, the rhino skeleton was the most interesting.
Experts say that many of the rhino’s bones had clear traces of cuts consistent with butchering, and various bones had marks as if they were hit with a hammerstone.
This is very interesting.
However, even or fascinating is the fact that experts say that humans didn’t make the tools—and no, they weren’t made by aliens either.
According to experts, the oldest evidence of Homo sapiens is from about 300,000 years ago.
So if it wasn’t humans, who created the tools?
Scientists say that a close human ancestor crafted the tools, and the fact that they existed in the Philippines some 700,000 years ago means that we need to reconsider how and when humans and other hominins spread through the vast territories of South East Asia.
As noted by archaeologists Gerrit van den Bergh from the University of Wollongong in Australia, these mysterious hominins most likely spread across the area in a number of different migratory waves throughout various millennia.
Van den Bergh also believes that these mystery humans most likely traveled from north to south, from China and Taiwan, and not from West to East, from Borneo or Palawan through Indonesia, using ocean currents and settling as they went.
Interestingly, van den Bergh believes that this curious migration may have taken human ancestors on the Indonesian Island of Flores, giving rise to the mysterious Homo floresiensis species, aka the “Hobbit,” because of their relatively small stature.
Previously experts have found traces of ancient humans dating back 700,000 years on the Indonesian island of Java. Furthermore, Homo floresiensis ancestors have been found on Flores from around the same time.
Previous theories proposed by experts suggested that early hominids did not have the ability to craft boats, meaning that they could not have traveled by water in order to reach Luzon and the other islands separated from the mainland by deep oceans.
However, discoveries are changing what we thought about early humans and their capabilities.
“If you look at the fossil and recent faunas you see that there is an impoverishment as you go from north to south. On Luzon, you find fossils of stegodons, elephants, giant rats, rhino, deer, large reptiles and a type of water buffalo.
“On Sulawesi, the fossil fauna is already impoverished; there’s no evidence of rhinos or deer ever entering there. Then on Flores, you only had stegodons, Komodo dragons, humans and giant rats, that’s all,” van den Bergh said.
“If animals did reach these islands by chance, by entering the sea and following the currents south, then you would expect the further south you go the fewer species you would find – and that’s what we see.”
Who exactly these hominins were, remains a profound mystery, and we will probably never know unless we discover remains of the species in order to study them.
Some experts hint, they may have been the mysterious Denisovans.
“There’s a lot of focus again in the islands of South East Asia because they are places where you find natural experiments in hominin evolution. That’s what makes Flores unique, and now Luzon is another place we can start looking for fossil evidence,” van den Bergh said.