Archaeologists have discovered butchered rhino bones and dozens of stone tools in Luzon, the Philippines’ largest island that dates back to 700,000 years ago.
The findings, published in the journal Nature Wednesday, suggest there were human settlements in the area, and that predates what researchers previously believed to be the earliest human settlements by 600,000 years.
Now archaeologists want to know who these ancient humans were and understand how they were able to cross the deep seas that surround Luzon and other islands in Southeast Asia.
Among the discoveries was an incomplete fossilized rhino skeleton with bones still scarred by stone tools presumably used to remove the animal’s meat. To date the discovery, researchers analyzed the enamel in one of the rhino’s teeth using electron spin “which measures the buildup of electrons as a material is exposed to radiation over time,” the journal Science explains.
The analysis revealed the rhino’s tooth is 709,000 years old.
Co-researcher Gert van den Bergh, a paleontologist at the University of Wollongong, said there's little chance they were of our species, Homo sapiens.
"This remains speculative because we don't have fossils yet, but the dates pre-date modern humans," who are believed to have evolved in Africa hundreds of thousands of years later, Bergh explained.
Instead, they believe the most likely candidate is homo erectus, a species of human that evolved nearly two million years ago and whose remains have been found in China and Java.
Thomas Ingicco, a paleo archaeologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris who led the research, said it is better to avoid jumping to conclusions especially without any hominin fossils.
The teams are continuing with excavations to find the remains of those who made the tools located near the butchered rhino.