Kalinga Area of the Philippines, the site of the 709,000 year old tools and Callao Cave

In 2018, evidence of hominins dated to over 700,000 years ago was discovered at the Kalinga site in northern Luzon in the northern Philippines. Hominins (similar to hominids) are humans, direct ancestors of humans, or species closely related to humans. The find — which pushed back the arrival of humans in the Philippines by around 640,000 years, from 67,000 years ago to around 709,000years ago — was made by an international team of researchers who studied 57 stone tools found at the Kalinga site alongside rhinoceros bones that showed evidence of cut marks made while butchering them. Some of the bones had also been smashed open, suggesting that people were after the nutrient-rich marrow.[Source: Zach Zorich, Archaeology magazine, September-October 2018]

The study published in the journal Nature reported that the rhinoceros bones and stone tools had been accurately dated using electron-spin resonance methods, which can date material in a way that radiocarbon dating can't. These methods can be applied to things such as tooth enamel and rocks that had been heated, like quartz found in sediment. The study also pushes back the date for humans living in the wider South East Asian islands region.

Researchers found more than 400 bones of animals like Philippine brown deer, monitor lizards, freshwater turtles and stegodons, a now-extinct animal in the same family as elephants and mammoths. The scientists found a 75 percent complete skeleton of a rhinoceros that was clearly butchered, with 13 of its bones displaying cut marks and areas where bone was struck to release marrow.

Kalinga is in the Cagayan Valley of northern Luzon. The discovery supports the suggestion that over 700,000 years ago, hominins were able to build watercraft capable of ocean crossings and navigated the South China Sea to reach Luzon from mainland Asia.

Importance of Finding Hominins in The Philippines Over 700,000 Years Ago

CNN reported: Researchers came close to figuring out that Luzon may have been inhabited by early humans when stone tools and the fossils of large animals were discovered there in the 1950s. But they weren't able to securely date those findings to the Middle Pleistocene. But the recent excavations in the Kalinga province of northern Luzon uncovered 57 stone tools [Source: Ashley Strickland, CNN, May 2, 2018]

The discovery is important for a multitude of reasons, said study author Thomas Ingicco, associate professor at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle."First is the very old age of this site which multiplies by ten the formerly known early presence of Hominins in the Philippines," Ingicco wrote in an email. Second is the evidence for colonization of an ever-isolated island in The Philippines by the early Middle Pleistocene and therefore most likely by a hominin species other than Homo sapiens."

Although there is no direct fossil evidence to suggest who these early humans might have been, the "Kalinga toolmakers" represent a new area of interest and research."The butchery marks were a very good surprise," Ingicco said. "I only can think of two sites where you have evidences of butchery activities, one is the famous site of Choukoutien in China and the other is Ngebung in the Sangiran Dome of Java, Indonesia. So we actually know very little about these early Middle Pleistocene hominins' behaviour in Southeast Asia."

The site is excavated for a month each year. The next excavation is planned for this summer. The researchers hope that more excavations will help to answer the questions prompted by their latest findings. "One is who made the stone tools and butchered the rhino," Ingicco said. "To answer this we have to continue excavating and hope to be lucky enough to find a Hominin fossil of some sort.

What Hominin Species Lived in The Philippines 700,000 Years Ago

The Kalinga Rhinoceros philippinensis bones

According to Archaeology Magazine: “ At the moment, the researchers are hesitant to pin down which human ancestor may have made the journey, suggesting that it may have been either Homo erectus or early members of the recently identified Denisovans who undertook the journey. [Source: Zach Zorich, Archaeology magazine, September-October 2018]

Some suggested that maybe the 700,000-year-old Philippines hominins were similar to or relatived to Homo floresiensis — the small “Hobbits” that lived on island of Flores, east of Bali, 95,000 and 12,000 years ago. There is a good evidence that a relatively large human that lived 700,000 years ago and shrunk quickly and stayed that size ago is an ancestor of Homo floresiensis

Ashley Strickland of CNN wrote: The new Luzon evidence "might be mimicking what we know now on Flores Island, meaning an early colonization of an isolated island followed by the diminution in body size and speciation of this remote hominin population," Ingicco said. "Luzon Island might have been the place for similar endemic evolution of hominins into dwarfism just like what happened on Flores Island. [Source: Ashley Strickland, CNN, May 2, 2018]

How Did Humans Reach The Philippines

Another mystery is how they arrived at Luzon, a large island that has never been connected to the mainland by a land bridge. Hannah Devlin wrote in The Guardian: One possibility is that the early humans set out to sea intentionally on some form of raft; another is that they were washed there in relatively large numbers due to a natural event such as a tsunami. “Arrival by accident … is favoured by many scholars, but this is mainly because of arguments like ‘Homo erectus were not clever enough to cross the sea on purpose’,” said Florent Détroit, of the Natural History Museum in Paris. “But the fact is that we have now more and more evidence that they successfully settled on several islands in the remote past in south-east Asia, so it was probably not so accidental.” [Source: Hannah Devlin, The Guardian, April 10, 2019]

People have lived in Australia for at least 60,000 years and no land bridges connected Australia to anywhere during the Ice Ages. During ice ages land bridges connected Sumatra, Java, Bali and Borneo with Southeast Asia. The Philippines and the Indonesian islands of Sulawesi, Lombok, Flores, Timor and the Moluccas were not connected by land bridges to Southeast Asia. Land bridges connected New Guinea and Australia with each other but not with Indonesia or Southeast Asia. It was long thought that early man was unable to migrate past the 15-mile-wide Lombok Straight between Bali and Lombok. Stone flakes possibly produced by humans have been found in 730,000-year-old deposits on Flores, which has been offered as evidence that early man was able to cross the Lombok Strait.

Ashley Strickland of CNN wrote: It is not believed that early humans were capable of building watercraft. But it can't be ruled out completely,Ingicco said."Considering evidence of sea-crossing during the Middle Pleistocene is increasing in number, such a hypothesis cannot currently be rejected." [Source: Ashley Strickland, CNN, May 2, 2018]

What about the animals? Although fossils of large mammals were found, none of them belongs to carnivores -- which are not known for having good long-distance swimming skills, Ingicco said. But other large mammals are. Small animals like rats, tortoises and lizards have been found to float on vegetation to reach islands. That scenario is likely here, according to the study.

Inclement weather, like typhoons, can also create natural rafts out of vegetation capable of carrying hominins and animals."Colonization of the islands could have been possible thanks to natural rafts such as floating mangroves that typhoons occasionally break off the coast," Ingicco said. "These floating islands would have come with animals and possibly hominins on them. Such natural rafts are quite well documented for historical periods and it is therefore a likely way of colonizing Luzon Island during the mid-Pleistocene by hominins."

"The other question is the origin of the dispersion. Did they come from the North as our team suspect or did they come from the West as some other archaeologists suspect? Comparing the early Middle Pleistocene fauna of the Philippines with what is known by the same age in China and in Indonesia will surely help to answer to this question."

Calloa Cave Hominins

Extension of Ice Age land bridges and the Wallace and Huxley Lines, marking open ocean that had be crossed to reach land

Before the discovery described above, the earliest evidence of hominins in the Philippines was Calloa Cave also in Cagayan Valley of northern Luzon not far from Kalinga. In 2007 and 2010, archaeologists Dr. Armand Mijares with Dr. Phil Piper found bones in a cave near Peñablanca, Cagayan that were dated to be 67,000 years old. At that time they were the earliest human fossil ever found in Asia-Pacific. The hominins found in Calloa Cave were named Homo luzonensis and dubbed as Callao Man. They were initially tentatively labeled to be modern humans (Homo sapiens) but were very small and appeared to have come from individuals who had a form of dwarfism or were a different hominin species. [Source: Wikipedia]

Colin Barras wrote in New Scientist: “In 2007, researchers found a 67,000-year-old human foot bone on the island of Luzon. It was provisionally suggested that it belonged to an unusually early Homo sapiens to the east of the Wallace line. But there are also unpublished reports that more human fossils were found on Luzon in 2014 – and that these additional finds suggest that the Luzon hominin may have been a more primitive species. [Source: Colin Barras, New Scientist, 13 January 2016]

The find consisted of a single 6.1-centimeter (2.4-inch) metatarsal (foot bone). It was dated using uranium series ablation and found to be at least 67,000 years old. This is significantly older than the 47,000-year-old remains of the Palawan Tabon Man, the oldest modern human remains found before that. In 2010, more fossils and materials were unearthed by Mijares and his team in Calloa Cave. In 2015 seven teeth and six small bones were found there. After this a thorough anthropological and genetic study was undertaken. On April 10, 2019, a team of paleoanthropologists led by Florent Détroit and Mijares published the conclusions in the journal Nature, announcing the Calloa Cave fossils as a newly identified human species, Homo luzonensis, which definitely lived on Luzon island between 50,000 and 67,000 years ago.

Anthropological studies suggested, that Callao Man, like Homo floresiensis from Indonesia, was less than four feet tall. Researchers have also noted, that the indigenous Aeta people, who live in the mountains of Luzon Island, might be descendants of Callao Man.

Thomas Ingicco, associate professor at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, told CNN that .Callao Man and the Kalinga site remains were found relatively close to each other, “there is a huge time gap between Kalinga and Callao archaeological evidences with a lots of questions in between...At Kalinga we have tools and butchery activities, and at Callao they have hominin remains and some butchery marks as well but no tools. Comparing the two sites is not easy at the moment." [Source: Ashley Strickland, CNN, May 2, 2018]

Homo Luzonensis

Homo luzonensis as we said above is the name given to the hominin fossils found in Callao Cave and dated up to 67,000 years. When the announcement of the new taxon was made in 2019, The Guardian reported: A new species of ancient human, thought to have been under 4ft tall and adapted to climbing trees, has been discovered in the Philippines, providing a twist in the story of human evolution. The specimen has been dated to 50,000-67,000 years ago — when modern humans and the Neanderthals were spreading across Europe and into Asia.[Source: Hannah Devlin, The Guardian, April 10, 2019]

Florent Détroit, of the Natural History Museum in Paris and the paper’s first author, said the discovery provided the latest challenge to the fairly straightforward prevalent narrative of human evolution. “We now know that it was a much more complex evolutionary history, with several distinct species contemporaneous with Homo sapiens, interbreeding events, extinctions,” said Détroit. “Homo luzonensis is one of those species and we will [increasingly see] that a few thousand years back in time, Homo sapiens was definitely not alone on Earth.”

Altogether the Callao Cave yielded seven teeth, two hand bones, three foot bones and one thigh bone thought to belong to two adults and one child. The tiny teeth suggest the human would have been shorter than 4ft tall — possibly even shorter than Homo floresiensis. Most intriguing was the presence of a curved toe bone, which closely resembled the anatomy of far more ancient species such as Australopithecus, known only in Africa and dating to 2 million to 3 million years ago. Normally this anatomy would indicate a mixed lifestyle with an ability to walk on two legs and climb trees. One possibility is that this primitive trait reappeared once the species had become isolated on the island. “Maybe the way they were walking was distinct,” said Détroit. “This is something we plan to work on in the near future.”

It is not known whether the new species, along with the ‘hobbit’, represent earlier dispersals from Africa than Homo erectus, which as in Asia at least 1.5 million years ago, or whether they are descendants who later shrank and evolved new anatomical traits. Chris Stringer, head of human origins research at the Natural History Museum in London, said another crucial question is what caused the demise of these early humans and whether our own ancestors played a role. “As for the fate of luzonensis, it is too early to say whether the spread of Homo sapiens into the region at least 50,000 years ago might have been a factor in its disappearance,” he said.

Discovery of and Early Theories About Callao Man (Homo Luzonensis)

In 2010, The Philippines Star reported: “A team of archaeologists has confirmed that a foot bone they discovered in Callao Cave in Cagayan province is at least 67,000 years old, older than the so-called Tabon Man of Palawan, which has long been thought to be the archipelago’s earliest human remains at 50,000 years old, a report on GMANews.TV said. “So far this could be the earliest human fossil found in the Asia-Pacific region. The presence of humans in Luzon shows these early humans already possessed knowledge of seacraft-making in this early period,” Dr. Armand Mijares, of the University of the Philippines-Diliman who led the team of archeologists, told GMANews.TV. The actual discovery of the bone occurred in 2007 but it was not clear then just how old the fossil was. Mijares said they were able to approximate the fossil’s age through a method called “uranium-series dating." [Source: Philippines Star, August 3, 2010 ]

The primary theory is that Callao Man, or his ancestors, reached Luzon from what is now Indonesia by raft at a time when experts did not think human beings were capable of traveling long distances by sea. Some signs found by the scientists also indicated that Callao Man might not have been fully human, but only a species akin to modern humans. Dr. Victor Paz, a UP colleague of Mijares who was not part of the excavation, told GMANEWS.TV that the bone could be evidence of human “speciation" or the evolutionary process by which new biological species arise, taking place in Luzon. “If speciation did take place in the region and more evidence comes out of older modern human remains, it may seriously challenge current conventions on the spread of modern humans to our region," Paz said.

“Based on the single bone, it is not clear that Callao Man was male. But they do know that its physical size was similar to the modern Negrito, or Aytas of Luzon. The bone was the third metatarsal of the foot, thus is referred to scientifically as Callao MT3. The human bone was found in the town of Peñablanca, Cagayan in an excavation site where Mijares had started digging four years before. “We were initially frustrated that during the excavation we were only finding animal remains. But when my colleague Dr. Phil Piper, our team’s zoo-archaeologist, was looking at the finds, he said to me, 'Mandy, this is a human bone,'" Mijares said. “When we verified that it is a human bone, I knew that we discovered something very important."

“The presence of the remains of butchered animals in the same layer of sediment, but no stone tools, has raised interesting questions about how Callao Man killed them. “We can only speculate that they were using different tools. From our initial analysis of the cut marks on the animal bones, they could have used organic tools such as bamboo which is ubiquitous in the region," Mijares told GMANEWS.TV.”

According to one academic journal: “In the Philippines, a hominin fossil from Callao Cave in Luzon has not yet been identified to species. It was referred to Homo species and favorably compared with small-bodied Homo species, such as Homo habilis and H. floresiensis (Larick and Ciochon 2015), although provisionally attributed to H. sapiens by Mijares et al. (2010). It has a minimum age of around 50,000 years old. and is found in association with several large taxa: the native brown deer (Cervus mariannus), the Philippine warty pig (Sus philippen- sis), and an extinct bovid.

First Modern Human in the Philippines

Its estimated that the first modern humans reached the Philippines at least 50,000 years ago, perhaps by a land bridge from Asia that was exposed when oceans receded during the Ice Age. Very old hominin remains have were found in Tabon Cave on the island of Palawan. It is possible there were people much earlier than this. People have lived in Australia for 60,000 years. Palawan was connected to Southeast Asia by a land bridge during the Ice Ages. Other Philippine islands such as Luzon were not.

Negrito, proto-Malay, and Malay peoples were the principal peoples of the Philippine archipelago. The Negritos are believed to have migrated by land bridges some 30,000 years ago, during the last glacial period. Later migrations were by water and took place over several thousand years in repeated movements before and after the start of the Christian era. [Library of Congress]

The Philippines were probably first occupied by people who arrived in small migrations from mainland Southeast Asia. The first of these were believed to be Negritos. Only Negroid Pygmies of the mountains of Luzon and some islands of the Philippines are the Semang Negritos of peninsular Malaysia and the survivors of the original hunter gathers that inhabited Southeast Asia and the Pacific before the Chinese arrived. But even these Negritos adopted the Chinese language. The ancestors of the hunter-gatherers lives on in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands and other Pacific islands.

The origin of the forest dwelling Negritos of Luzon is obscure. As is also true with the Negroid tribes of the Malaysia, and the Indian Ocean islands are of an unknown origin, some anthologist believe they are descendants of wandering people that "formed an ancient human bridge between Africa and Australia.” It was originally thought that the first settlers were people who resembled the Melanesians on Papua New Guinea and the Aboriginals in Australia. But these theories have largely been discredited because there is no firm evidence to back them up.

According to Lonely Planet: “Thanks to 'Tabon Man', who left a bit of his (or her, according to some) skull in a cave in Palawan at least 47, 000 years ago, a sliver of light shines into the deep, dark prehistory of the Philippines. The oldest known human relic of the islands, this bone fragment suggests that the Tabon Caves helped early Homo sapiens survive the last ice age. The longest-held theory on the origins of Tabon Man is based on distinct waves of migration. Assuming that much of modern-day Asia was linked by land bridges, this theory posits that around 250, 000 years ago our earliest human ancestors simply walked over to what is now the Philippines. About 200, 000 years later, in strode the nomadic Negrito groups from the Malay Peninsula, Borneo and perhaps even Australia. After an interval of roughly 2000 years, the Neolithic Age arrived in the form of the seafaring, tool-wielding Indonesians. The Indonesian groups brought with them formal farming and building skills.

Tabon Caves

Tabon Man

Tabon Man refers to remains discovered in the Tabon Caves in Lipuun Point in Quezon, on the west coast Palawan in the Philippines. They were discovered by Robert B. Fox, an American anthropologist of the National Museum of the Philippines, in May 1962 and consist fossilized fragments of a skull of a female and the jawbones of three individuals dating back to 16,500 years ago. Later evidence of hominins dated to 47,000 years ago was found at the site (See Below). [Source: Wikipedia]

Tabon Caves appears to have been a kind of Stone Age factory, with both finished stone flake tools and waste core flakes having been found at four separate levels in the main chamber. Charcoal left from three assemblages of cooking fires there has been Carbon-14-dated to roughly 9,000, 22,000, and 24,000 years ago. The right mandible of a modern human (Homo sapien) which dates to 29,000 B.C., was discovered together with a skullcap. The Tabon skull cap is the oldest skull cap of a modern human found in the Philippines, and is thought to have belonged to a young female. The Tabon mandible is the earliest evidence of human remains showing archaic characteristics of the mandible and teeth.

The Tabon tibia fragment, a bone from the lower leg, was found during the re-excavation of the Tabon Cave complex by the National Museum of the Philippines. The bone was sent to the National Museum of Natural History in France for analysis. An accelerated carbon dating technique dated it at 47,000 years old, plus or minus 11,000 years, making it the oldest human fossil recovered in the Tabon Cave complex.

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The tibia fragment dating to 47,000+/- 11-10,000 years ago (IV-2000-T-97) was found (Dizon et al, 2002, Annex 8). There are also a right mandible dating to 31,000 +-8-7,000 years ago (PXIII-T-436) and a frontal bone dating to 16,500 +- 2,000 years ago (previously dated to 22,000-24,000 BP). The dates are based on isotopic 230 Th/U 234 ratio. Another fossil mandibular fragment raises the issue of a possible colonization of Palawan by Pongidae during the Upper Pleistocene (16,500 +- 2,000 BP). [Source: Report Submitted to UNESCO by National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA)]

Palawan, unlike Luzon, could have been reached on foot during the Ice Ages when water levels were low or reached by boat, According to Lonely Planet: “The ocean and the boat have always been powerful symbols in the Philippines. The word barangay, which refers to the basic Filipino social unit or a community, is derived from the ancient balangay, or sailboat. The longest-held theory on the origins of Tabon Man is based on distinct waves of migration. Assuming that much of modern-day Asia was linked by land bridges, this theory posits that around 250,000 years ago our earliest human ancestors simply walked over to what is now the Philippines.” [Source: Lonely Planet =]

Philippine migration patterns

Evidence of 39,000-Year-Old Bamboo Tools Found in Tabon Caves

In 2023, Archaeology magazine and Popular Science reported: It’s difficult to ascertain how long humans have used plant materials to make textiles, ropes, and baskets since these objects rarely survive in archaeological contexts, particularly in the world’s tropical regions, where warm and humid air breaks down green matter easier than stone or bone fragments.. However, microscopic imaging of three 39,000-year-old stone tools from the Tabon Caves identified plant residues and wear patterns likely caused when hard bamboo or palm stalks were stripped into pliable fibers that were easier to weave or tie. This is by far the earliest known evidence of people manipulating plants in Southeast Asia. These findings were described in a study published June 30, 2023 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE. [Source: Laura Baisas, Popular Science, July 1, 2023; Archaeology magazine, September-October 2023]

Laura Baisas wrote in Popular Science: A team of researchers found these tools in Tabon Cave. Using radiocarbon dating they found these tools were as old as 39,000 years, pushing back the timeline of Southeast Asia’s fiber technology. Previously, the oldest evidence of plant goods in the area were roughly 8,000 year old fragments of mats found in southern China. Compared to the toolkits found from prehistoric groups in Africa or Europe, stone tools in Southeast Asia were not very standardized, using diverse sizes and shapes. According to study co-author Hermine Xhauflair, a prehistorian and ethnoarchaeologist at the University of the Philippines Diliman, some scientists believe that this difference was due to adaptations to the environment that spurred an “Age of Bamboo.” Similar to the Stone Age or Bronze Age, which heavily relied on their namesake materials, tools at this time were likely mostly made of plentiful bamboo. This organic material doesn’t preserve well, so scientists must look for micro-traces for evidence of this critical chapter in human history.“Mastering fiber technology was a very important step in human development,” Xhauflair tells PopSci. “It means that people had the potential and the capacity to make objects from multiple parts, bound by fiber; they could build complex houses and structures, make baskets and traps, string bows to hunt, rig sails to boats, and even build the boats.”

The stone tools that Xhauflair and her team found in Tabon Cave show microscopic evidence of the wear and tear associated with fiber technology. They looked at the plant processing techniques still used by the region’s Indigenous communities, including the Tagbanua, Palaw’an, Tao’t Bato, Molbog, Batak, Agutaynen, and Cuyonon. Rough and rugged plants such as palm and bamboo are stripped and their stems are turned into supple fibers for weaving or tying. Building from these contemporary practices, the team conducted multiple surveys and fieldwork in the rainforest near the cave to find the signature of the different plants and fiber technologies. From that, they could build a database. They then used optical, digital, and scanning electron microscopes on the stone tools from Tabon Cave and found consistent patterns of damage to the stone tools and the ones used today.

Further study will shed light on how the ancient residents of Tabon Cave made baskets, traps, ropes for houses, bows for hunting, and more. This discovery also raises the question of whether plant-based techniques have persisted, uninterrupted, for hundreds of generations. “The technique used nowadays to process plant fibers in the region was already known 39,000 years ago. Are we in [the] presence of a very long-lasting tradition?” Xhauflair asks. “Or was this technique discovered at several points in time and abandoned?”

Filpino Creation Myth — Man Came from Bamboo

A Filipino myth on the origin of man says that man came from bamboo. Alfredo Roces and Grace Roces wrote in “Culture Shock!: Philippines”: According to the myth, there was a bird that flew incessantly between the sea and sky, unable to find a place to alight and rest. To add intrigue, the bird sparked a quarrel between the sea and the sky. It told the sky that the sea had designs of rising and drowning the sky; the sky replied it would fight such a move by hurling rocks and islands to hold the sea down, a statement the bird conveyed to the sea, provoking it to lash waves at the sky. The sky retaliated with rocks until, weighed down with islands, the sea no longer proved a threat. The bird then alighted happily on a protruding rock. [Source: “Culture Shock!: Philippines” by Alfredo Roces and Grace Roces, Marshall Cavendish International, 2010]

While it was resting, a bamboo node washed ashore and nudged the bird’s feet. The bird shifted a little. The bamboo nudged its feet again, and again the bird shifted. This went on until the bird, in anger, pecked at the bamboo, breaking it open. Out of the bamboo node emerged the first man. From the second node emerged a woman. Obtaining permission from the gods, the couple had many children. All grew up idle, doing nothing to help their parents until the father angrily picked up a stout stick and threatened to beat them all, sending them scampering in terror. Some ran out of the house, others fled to the bedroom, a few cowered in the living room, some hid in the kitchen and some among soot-covered cooking pots.

Those children who entered the bedroom sired the chief and datos; those in the living room became free men; descendants of those who hid in the kitchen became slaves; while those blackened by the cooking pots produced the Aetas. From those who fled the house never to return descended all the people from other parts of the world.

This story, with variations, is widely disseminated, recently even used as a modern dance theme. The original couple—in some versions the male is called Malakas (powerful), and the woman, Maganda (beautiful)—continues to linger on in memory. Archaeological evidence reveals dissemination of pottery wares and designs throughout the archipelago, which suggests there was also much interaction between tribal and regional groups.

Petroglyphs and Petrographs of the Philippines

Petroglyphs and Petrographs of the Philippines (three kilometers from the town of Angono, which 1½ hours southeast from Manila) were nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2006. According to UNESCO: “These petroglyphs are of animate figures interpreted as representing juveniles or infants on a rock face in a rock shelter. The shelter is located southeast of the city of Manila, three , and some 235 meters above sea level. The shelter if formed by quaternary volcanics, located on the eastern limb of an anticline. The cave faces 305 degrees west and measures 632.84 meters, 4.68 meters in height and 8.2 meters in depth. The cave was formed at the close of the Pleistocene, early part of the Holocene, at a period when the quaternary alluvium was not yet extensive. [Source: UNESCO]

“The petroglyphs occupy 25 meters of the rockwall with a height of 3.7 meters from the floor level. The engravings are executed into all the available space on the wall with no orientation nor association with one another. There are no relationships in scale and size, and no baseline. The engravings are made on the tuff layer of the wall with "v" and "u" cross sections, depending on the sizes of the images, the largest of which is 63 centimeters. There is no attempt at making relieves. The general typology of the images is a rounded head on a narrow neck, rectangular body with a lower taper, linear flexed limb with three digits each. There is a total of 127 still discernable figures. There are non-cognitive incisions. There are 51 distinct types. The engravings are not decorative but are symbolic representations, executed by different individuals using a single mental template, apparently with the same cultural persuasion. Associated with healing and sympathetic magic.

“The dating of the petroglyphs is probably late Neolithic Age. Only highly fragmented low-fired pottery was recovered, a number of Paleolithic cobble and flaked tools, and Neolithic Age polished adzes. The Philippine Neolithic ranges from 6000 B.C. to 2000 B.C. The other set of Petroglyphs are those found in Alab, Mountain province carved on boulders on top of promontories. The configurations are those of pudenda. The dating is relatively later and placed at not earlier than 1500 B.C. or even later.

The Petrographs are of two kinds: a) Charcoal drawings on cave walls in Penablanca, Cagayan Province, and the Singnapan Caves in southern Palawan; b) red hematite prints in Anda Peninsula, Bohol province. The dating of these is still undetermined.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Philippines Tourism websites, Philippines government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA the official government agency for culture in the Philippines), The Guardian, Archaeology magazine, CNN, Popular Science, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, National Geographic, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, and various books and other publications.

Updated in April 2024

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