There were once many human species, but today there is only one; modern humans, Homo sapiens. However, the human family tree is growing. Researchers working in a cave in the Philippines claim to have found a new, previously unknown species to add to human history.
Remarkably this hominin was probably less than four feet high and had some of the characteristics of modern people but also anatomical features from much earlier hominins . It is believed that the discovery will transform the understanding of our evolution.
New humans found in the Philippines
In recent years there have been a series of finds of early humans in the Philippines. The latest was made by archaeologists as they were digging in the ‘rocky floor of Callao Cave on Luzon island’ according to History.com. A team of experts found a number of fossils that are unlike anything else in the world. They were unearthed by a team of experts led by Professor Philip Piper, from the Australian National University.
The excavation site at Callao Cave. (Image: © Callao Cave Archaeology Project)
According to the Daily Mail , “the fossil remains included adult finger and toe bones, as well as teeth.” The femur bone of a juvenile was also unearthed. The remains are estimated to be about 50,000 years old, at a period of time in the Pleistocene when several human species co-existed on the planet. A preliminary examination of the remains indicated that they came from an ‘unknown species of hominin’ according to Haaretz.
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The five upper teeth found belonged to a single individual of previously unknown hominin, provisionally named ‘Homo luzonensis’. The have a strange mix of Australopithecine and modern features. (Image: © Callao Cave Archaeology Project)
A new human relative?
The stunning discovery has been provisionally named Homo luzonensis . The new species had some of the same characteristics of modern humans , in particular, its molars. However, they also had characteristics of a far earlier species namely of Homo australopithecus . This hominin was the ancestor of many human species including Homo erectus and lived between 2 and 3 million years ago. The Daily Mail reports that ‘hand and feet bones, are remarkably Australopithecine-like’.
Despite these similarities, the shape of the tooth and the anatomy of the feet shows that they are a unique human species. The slight but significant difference are such that taken together they strongly indicate that Piper and his team have unearthed a new species. What is most striking about the new species was their estimated height, possibly just under four feet.
One of the teeth found in Callao Cave ( Youtube Screenshot )
Connection to the Hobbit?
The height of the new humans was determined by the size of the tooth and the other bones. However, more evidence is required to confirm this. If the size is confirmed, it is raising the possibility that the hominins are somehow related to another species found in the Indonesian island of Flores . This hominin is Homo floresiensis and stood under four feet high. Because of their diminutive stature, they are popularly known as the Hobbit.