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Bones found in Philippines may belong to previously unknown human relative

13 April 2019

The specimens of fossilized bone and teeth found in the cave were estimated to be 50,000-67,000 years old, suggesting this human cousin roamed the earth relatively recently on the evolutionary calendar.

Fossils found inside a cave in the Philippines have linked humanity to a long lost cousin.

In particular, the newly discovered luzonensis has a foot bone that is unlike any of its known human contemporaries but closely resembles those of a human species known to have existed in Africa around two to three million years earlier.

One scientist, Professor Chris Stringer, from the National History Museum, said: "After the remarkable finds of the diminutive Homo floresiensis were published in 2004, I said that the experiment in human evolution conducted on Flores could have been repeated on numerous other islands in the region".

In a study released by the journal Nature, scientists describe a cache of seven teeth and six bones from the feet, hands and thigh of at least three individuals.

The already entangled branches of human evolution have a new development.

The presence of Homo luzonensis on an island suggests its ancestors were seafaring.

This undated photo provided by the Callao Cave Archaeology Project in April 2019 shows Callao Cave on Luzon Island of the Philippines, where the fossils of Homo luzonensis were discovered.

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The result is that our understanding of evolution in Asia is "messier, more complicated and a whole lot more interesting", said expert Matthew Tocheri of Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Australopithecus lived between 2.9 million and 3.9 million years ago. He speculated that it might have descended from an earlier human relative, Homo erectus, that somehow crossed the sea to Luzon. Tests on two samples show minimum ages of 50,000 years and 67,000 years.

The discovery of two unusual species of early human in the past two decades are making paleontologists wonder about the history of humanity.

Filipino archeologists searching Callao Cave for fossil bones and teeth found in the northern Philippines.

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. They are extraordinarily similar to ones seen in earlier hominins such as australopiths, the most likely ancestors of humans.

After all, he said in an interview, remains of the hobbits and H. luzonensis show a mix of primitive and more modern traits that differ from what's seen in H. erectus.

Homo luzonensis had extraordinarily small adult molars - "they're close to half the size of adult modern human molars", Tocheri said.

The sole representative of the first wave was thought to have been Homo erectus, which spread across the globe more than 1.5 million years ago.

Bones found in Philippines may belong to previously unknown human relative