Over 60 years ago, stone tools and remains of megafauna were discovered on the Southeast Asian islands of Flores, Sulawesi and Luzon, and a Middle Pleistocene colonization by Homo erectus was initially proposed to have occurred on these islands1,2,3,4. However, until the discovery of Homo floresiensis in 2003, claims of the presence of archaic hominins on Wallacean islands were hypothetical owing to the absence of in situ fossils and/or stone artefacts that were excavated from well-documented stratigraphic contexts, or because secure numerical dating methods of these sites were lacking. As a consequence, these claims were generally treated with scepticism5. Here we describe the results of recent excavations at Kalinga in the Cagayan Valley of northern Luzon in the Philippines that have yielded 57 stone tools associated with an almost-complete disarticulated skeleton of Rhinoceros philippinensis, which shows clear signs of butchery, together with other fossil fauna remains attributed to stegodon, Philippine brown deer, freshwater turtle and monitor lizard. All finds originate from a clay-rich bone bed that was dated to between 777 and 631 thousand years ago using electron-spin resonance methods that were applied to tooth enamel and fluvial quartz. This evidence pushes back the proven period of colonization6 of the Philippines by hundreds of thousands of years, and furthermore suggests that early overseas dispersal in Island South East Asia by premodern hominins took place several times during the Early and Middle Pleistocene stages1,2,3,4. The Philippines therefore may have had a central role in southward movements into Wallacea, not only of Pleistocene megafauna7, but also of archaic hominins.
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J. Barns and A. Labrador provided support for this research as well as G. Concepcion and M. dela Cruz Jr. The Kalinga excavation project was funded by the French Department for Foreign Affairs (Project MARCHE, to T.I.), The National Museum of The Philippines (to C.J.-o. and M.C.R.), The University of the Philippines Diliman Research Grant of the Office of Vice President for Academic Affairs (to T.I.) and the European Social Fund (Project ISOLARIO, NSRF Thalis-UOA, to G.L.). T.I. also received funding from a National Geographic Global Exploration grant (HJ-035R-17), from the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (GDRi PalBiodivASE with Valéry Zeitoun), from Sorbonne Universités (Project MH@SU TAPHO), from the Société des Amis du Musée de l’Homme and from the LabEx BCDiv. G.D.v.d.B. received funding from an Australian Research Council (ARC) Future fellowship (FT100100384). J.d.V. received funding from the Quaternary and Prehistory Erasmus Mundus Program. Additional funding was provided by the Embassy of France to the Philippines and by the Rizal Municipality. M.G.C. received funding from CERCA Programme/Generalitat de Catalunya. We thank S. Hayes for her feedback on the manuscript; M.-M. Blanc-Valleron for providing access to the X-ray diffractometer; A. Ledoze, S. Puaud, V. Scao, S. Baillon, H. Guillou, J. Marteau, M. Bigerelle, R. Deltombe, D. Borshneck and F. Demory for their valuable help in the laboratory analyses.
Nature thanks M. Duval, J. Kappelman, R. Potts and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.