After discovery of new human species, Filipino archaeologist wants more sites explored

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Dr. Armand Mijares shows a replica of a bone extracted from Callao Cave in Cagayan

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 26) --- The Filipino professor who led the discovery of a new human-linked species wants to pursue a wider search for fossils, setting sights on potential excavation sites with the help of other archaeologists.

After unearthing the remains of the Homo luzonensis – an older species discovered in Cagayan – Dr. Armand Mijares, is now looking to broaden their search for fossils.

Mijares, associate professor at the University of the Philippines Archaeological Studies Program, led a team of Filipino and foreign researchers in digging 2.6 meters from the surface of Callao Cave in a span of four years, where they found the remains of two adults and one child dating back at least 50,000 years ago.

READ: Meet the Filipino professor who led the discovery of a new human-linked species

A big part of this expanded search relies on available talent to carry out the tedious and highly technical task.

“Ever since, I’ve been looking around the Philippines. In Boracay, we actually surveyed Aklan. Malay and Buruanga, there are actually a lot of cave sites and there are some potentials there,” Mijares told CNN Philippines’ The Source.

Believed to be among the predecessors of the Homo sapiens or the modern man, the Homo luzonensis is named after the Luzon island where the fossils were discovered. Mijares explained that they initially wanted to name the species as Homo philippinensis, but this had already been taken by an archaeologist from way back the 1920s.

Mijares said he is scouting for new excavation sites beyond Cagayan and Palawan, where the Tabon Man had been discovered by American archaeologist Robert Fox. The Tabon Man was discovered inside a cave in 1962, with its skeletal remains dating to 14,000 B.C.

Now, Mijares wants to go beyond Luzon for future archaeologic finds.

“[N]obody has been searching for other sites. There are a few archaeologists in the Philippines, so we really need to hype it up to produce more archaeologists to be able to span what’s happening in Visayas and Mindanao,” the professor added.

As it is, Mijares’ discovery is a global breakthrough. He said that the Homo luzonensis puts the Philippines “at the center of evolutionary debate,” following the publication of his intensive research.

Mijares believes the Homo luzonensis could be skilled tree-climbers, judging from the curved foot bone which they dug up. He clarified that the species is “not our ancestor.”

For now, Mijares is looking to go deeper in Callao Cave next year in search for more remnants while simulations are done on the extracted bones to visualize how the species looked like. Initial data show that the Homo luzonensis may be much smaller, with its stature closer to the negrito.

He is also leading another excavation in Biak-na-Bato in San Miguel, Bulacan with a team from the Bulacan State University.

“We will look for more fossils, I’d also want to train more people to explore other islands in the Philippines. With that, we can be able to do more discoveries,” Mijares said.