UP, National Museum archeologists discover Ice Age human settlement in Palawan

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UPD and National Museum archeologists unearthed evidence of human settlement in the Pilanduk Cave in Palawan during the height of the last ice age 20,000 to 25,000 years ago. (Photo: Pilanduk Cave Archaeology Team via UPDate)
UPD and National Museum archeologists unearthed evidence of human settlement in the Pilanduk Cave in Palawan during the height of the last ice age 20,000 to 25,000 years ago. (Photo: Pilanduk Cave Archaeology Team via UPDate)

Archaeologists from the University of the Philippines Diliman (UP) and the National Museum unearthed new discoveries proving human occupation of the Pilanduk Cave in Palawan some 20,000 to 25,000 years ago, at the height of the last ice age.

Janine Ochoa, an assistant professor of anthropology at the UPD and the lead author of the research “Tropical island adaptations in Southeast Asia during the Last Glacial Maximum: Evidence from Palawan,” said in a report by UPDate that they found “evidence for specialized deer hunting and freshwater mollusc foraging, LGM fossils for the tiger and remains of other native mammal and reptile fauna of Palawan.”

They were also able to find “new radiocarbon dates that securely place the age of human occupation of Pilanduk Cave at the LGM/Last Ice Age at ca. 20,000-25,000 years ago,” and “evidence for shifting foraging behaviors (ecological and behavioral flexibility) of modern humans occupying changing tropical environments (climate and environmental changes) across ca. 40,000 years on Palawan Island.”

Another archaeologist first conducted research in the Pilanduk cave, Jonathan Kress, also in partnership with the National Museum from 1969 to 1970. Ochoa said they pursued re-excavating the area to verify Kress’s research.

“There has been a need to verify the dates reported by Kress, due to the limited stratigraphic data available for Pilanduk, and the limitations of the radiocarbon dating method at the time of Kress’s excavation in the 1970s particularly for dating mollusc remains,” Ochoa said to UPDate.

“In fact, it has the best preserved LGM archaeological record from any site in the Philippine archipelago. There are not many LGM sites in the Philippines because many are likely submerged underwater when the coastlines and the sea levels were much lower during the LGM,” Ochoa added.

The said research article has already been released online, and will be physically published by an international archeology journal, Antiquity, in its October 2022 issue.

Kress, who died on August 6, was mourned by Ochoa and his colleagues.

“The archaeological work in Pilanduk Cave would not have been possible without the previous research of Jonathan Kress, who led the first excavation of the site in 1970,” they said.

“He would share and recall the local names of various shell taxa, which were taught to him by the indigenous team he worked with. Engaging with students was important for him and he regaled us with exciting and adventurous stories about Palawan in the 1970s. We remember Jonathan as gentle, kind, patient, and full of wisdom,” they added.

Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and creative writer who follows developments on politics, democracy, and popular culture. He advocates for a free press and national democracy. Follow him on Twitter at @marvs30ang for latest news and updates. The views expressed are his own.

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