You Can View That 709,000-Year-Old Rhino Skeleton at the New National Museum of Natural History
Last week, Filipinos were thrilled to learn of evidence that humans lived in the Philippines as early as 709,000 years ago. This was proven through the discovery of a rhinoceros skeleton, along with prehistoric stone tools in the municipality of Rizal, Kalinga. The stone tools, together with butchery marks on the rhino bones, suggest that ancient hominins colonized the Philippines about ten times earlier than what was previously believed. The fossils were excavated by a team of Filipino and French archeologists led by by Dr. Thomas Inggico, Clyde Jago-on, and Marian C. Reyes.
Today, some of the rhinoceros bones and stone tools from the excavation site are on display at the National Museum of Natural History, which is set to open on May 18. “These rhinoceros bones are precious artefacts not only for us but for science worldwide,” says Jeremy Robert Barns, director of the National Museum of the Philippines.
The rhinoceros bones that bear cut marks and percussion marks
All of the fossils and tools aside from those brought to Paris for analysis are at the National Museum of the Philippines, and will be permanently exhibited at both the National Museum of Anthropology and the National Museum of Natural History.
While archaeologists clarify that we aren’t descended from the hominins whose tools were found—the earliest evidence for homo sapiens is 300,000 years ago, while the tools are about 700,000 years old—this discovery gives us a richer understanding of our natural heritage.
A rhinoceros tooth
“What we’re hoping to do is to provide a better and a deeper understanding of our prehistory of the Philippine islands,” says archeologist Mylene Lising, who is part of Dr. Inggico’s team. “That gives us a better understanding of our country, of the environment we live in. Eventually, hopefully we might have evidence to acquire an understanding of how these earlier hominins interacted with their environment and with the animals around them, their ecology. This is just the beginning and the research work continues from here.”
Kathryn Manalo, an archeologist from UP who also took part in the dig, believes that this archeological find will bolster our sense of nationalism and identity as Filipinos. She points out that these ancient humans’ use of stone tools is impressive. “Imagine niyo na nakapag-process na ng rhinoceros na medyo malaki at malaman, na nagkaroon ng ganitong teknolohiya na gamitin o i-process ’yung meat for their own consumption,” she says.
Stone implements associated with the butchered rhino remains
“This is part of our heritage, just like the [Philippine] eagle, tarsier, and tamaraw,” Barns adds. “This is a part of our patrimony, and this discovery has contributed to advancing scientific knowledge globally, which is why there’s been so much international interest in this paper. [That] is something that should make every Filipino proud.”