Filipinos plan more diggings where new human species was found

A handout image made available by Florent Detroit and taken on August 9, 2011 shows a view of the excavation in the Callao Cave in the north of Luzon Island, in the Philippines, where an international multidisciplinary team discovered a new hominin species, Homo Luzonensis. (AFP PHOTO / Florent Detroit / Armand Salvadore Mijares)
Updated 12 April 2019
0

Filipinos plan more diggings where new human species was found

  • The new species is called Homo luzonensis after the main northern island of Luzon, where the remains were dug up starting in 2007
  • Aside from Callao Cave, human fossils have recently been found in another site in Bulacan province just north of the capital, Manila

MANILA, Philippines: Archaeologists who discovered fossil bones and teeth of a previously unknown human species that thrived more than 50,000 years ago in the northern Philippines said Thursday they plan more diggings and called for better protection of the popular limestone cave complex where the remains were unearthed.
Filipino archaeologist Armand Salvador Mijares said the discovery of the remains in Callao Cave in Cagayan province made the Philippines an important research ground on human evolution. The new species is called Homo luzonensis after the main northern island of Luzon, where the remains were dug up starting in 2007.
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. Tests showed two of the fossil fragments had minimum ages of 50,000 years and 67,000 years, according to a study published by the scientific journal Nature.
“This puts the Philippines, our scientific community in the spotlight,” Mijares said. “Before, we’re just peripheral in this debate of human evolution.”
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. Aside from Callao Cave, human fossils have recently been found in another site in Bulacan province just north of the capital, Manila, Mijares said without elaborating.

A handout image made available by Florent Detroit and taken on March 15, 2019 compares the fossil teeth of the newly discovered species Homo Luzonesis and that of Homo Erectus and the Homo Sapiens unearthed during the excavation in the Callao Cave in the north of Luzon Island, in northern Philippines. (AP)


Another veteran Filipino archaeologist, Eusebio Dizon, said the human remains from Callao were the oldest to be found in the Philippines, predating those discovered in Tabon Cave on the western island of Palawan by thousands of years.
While the archaeological find could attract more scientists, Dizon worried that it could also draw vandals and treasure hunters who could threaten the seven-chamber cave complex, which is a popular tourism destination. An open-air chapel with pews and an altar in the cave complex has become a popular venue for weddings and filmmakers.
“Penablanca has been a treasure hunting haven of many people,” Dizon said, referring to the Cagayan provincial town where the Callao caves are located. “Maybe it will reignite their kind of activity so that’s why it needs protection now more than ever.”
The main exodus of modern man’s own species from Africa that all of today’s non-African people are descended from took place around 60,000 years ago.
Analysis of the bones from the Callao caves led the study authors to conclude they belonged to a previously unknown member of our “Homo” branch of the human family tree. One of the toe bones and the overall pattern of tooth shapes and sizes differ from what’s been seen before in the Homo family, the researchers said.
The fossil bones and teeth found about 3 meters (9.8 feet) below the ground in the cave show they belonged to small-bodied people. Bones of deer and related animals were found in the area, some with cut marks, suggesting they were butchered although there were no stone tools or sharp implements found in the immediate area where the human fossils were dug up, Mijares said.
Although the find contributes a new insight into modern man’s ancient beginnings, Dizon said it also raised new questions and deepened the mystery behind the evolution of man.


US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

Updated 19 April 2019
0

US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

  • A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend
  • The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group

KABUL: The US envoy for peace in Afghanistan expressed disappointment on Friday after the collapse of a planned meeting between the Taliban and a group of Afghan politicians in Qatar that exposed some of the deep divisions hampering efforts to end the war.
A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend. The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group, which included some government officials attending in a personal capacity.
“I’m disappointed Qatar’s intra-Afghan initiative has been delayed,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghan reconciliation, said on Twitter. “I urge all sides to seize the moment and put things back on track by agreeing to a participant list that speaks for all Afghans.”
The collapse of the meeting before it had even started, described as a “fiasco” by one senior Western official, laid bare the tensions that have hampered moves toward opening formal peace negotiations.
Khalilzad, a veteran Afghan-born diplomat, has held a series of meetings with Taliban representatives but the insurgents have so far refused to talk to the Western-backed government in Kabul, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.
The Doha meeting was intended to prepare the ground for possible future talks by building familiarity among Taliban officials and representatives of the Afghan state created after the US-led campaign that toppled the Taliban government in 2001. A similar encounter was held in Moscow in February.
President Ashraf Ghani’s office blamed Qatari authorities for the cancelation, saying they had authorized a list of participants that differed from the one proposed by Kabul, “which meant disrespect for the national will of the Afghans.”
“This act is not acceptable for the people of Afghanistan,” it said in a statement on Friday.
Sultan Barakat, director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies in Qatar, which had been facilitating the meeting, said there was no disagreement about the agenda.
“Rather, there is insufficient agreement around participation and representation to enable the conference to be a success,” he tweeted.
Preparations had already been undermined by disagreements on the government side about who should attend, as well as by suspicions among rival politicians ahead of presidential elections scheduled for September.
The Taliban derided the agreed list of 250 participants as a “wedding party.” Some senior opposition figures who had been included refused to attend.
The Taliban also objected to Ghani’s comments to a meeting of delegates that they would be representing the Afghan nation and the Afghan government, a statement that went against the insurgents’ refusal to deal with the Kabul administration.