Apr 12, 2019

ICYMI, the skeletons of an extinct human species were found in Callao Cave. Called Homo luzonensis, they were first discovered by archaeologist Armand Salvador Mijares and his team from 2007 to 2015. The group published their findings on Apr. 10 this year in the scientific journal Nature, where they revealed the new species.

If you’ve heard of Mijares before, it’s probably from his discovery of the Callao Man in 2007, thought to be one of the oldest human remains in Asia Pacific. The discovery of Callao Man was what triggered the finding of the new species. The Callao Man was originally classified as a Homo sapiens, but more remains of similar skeletons started being uncovered, which led Mijared and his team to do some digging and discover the new species. The Callao Man has now been reclassified as a Homo luzonensis.

“The discovery adds growing complexity to the story of human evolution. It was not a simple march forward, as it once seemed. Instead, our lineage assumed an exuberant burst of strange forms along the way,” writes Carl Zimmer of The New York Times. Furthermore, the discovery “puts the Philippines, our scientific community in the spotlight,” Mijares stated in a press con at University of the Philippines. “Before, we’re just peripheral in this debate of human evolution.”

As great as this discovery is, though, this puts the Callao Cave in the spotlight and opens it to potential abuse. “Penablanca has been a treasure hunting haven of many people,” says archeologist Eusebio Dizon about the town where the cave is located. “Maybe it will reignite their kind of activity so that’s why it needs protection now more than ever.”

What’s more, the cave was already prone to vandalism even before the remains were discovered. A limestone cave with seven chambers, the Callao Cave is one of the most famous caves in the country. It’s now become a protected eco-tourism zone that’s popular with tourists, but you can still see traces of graffiti lining up the cave walls. In fact, a quick search on Facebook for “callao cave vandalism” gives you a number of irate travelers complaining about the defacement of the cave.

Hopefully, the government can step up to provide protection for the cave. It would be a huge loss if bad actors would ruin the cave and keep archeologists from discovering more about the species.


Featured photo is of the Callao Cave, courtesy of Callao Cave Archaeology Project via AP

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