ARCHAEOLOGISTS who discovered fossil bones and teeth of a previously unknown human species that thrived more than 50,000 years ago in the northern Philippines said Thursday they plan more diggings and called for better protection of the popular limestone cave complex where the remains were unearthed.

Filipino archaeologist Armand Salvador Mijares said the discovery of the remains in Callao Cave in Cagayan province made the Philippines an important research ground on human evolution.

The new species is called Homo Luzonensis after the main northern island of Luzon, where the remains were dug up starting in 2007.

Beaming with pride, Mijares displayed the six fragment of bones from the feet, hands and thigh and seven teeth of three individuals from that bygone era in a news conference at the state-run University of the Philippines.

Tests showed two of the fossil fragments had minimum ages of 50,000 years and 67,000 years, according to study published by the scientific journal Nature.

''That puts the Philippines, our scientific community in the spotlight,'' Mijares said. ''Before, we're just peripheral in this debate of human evolution.''

Mijares who led small team of foreign and local archaeologists behind the rare discovery, said he plans to resume the digging next year and hopes to find larger fossil bones, artifacts and possibly stone tools used by people in those times,.

Aside from Callao Cave, human fossils have recently been found in another site Bulacan province just north of the capital, Manila, Mijares said without elaborating.

Another veteran Filipino archaeologist, Eusebio Dizon, said the human remains fram Callao were the oldest to be found in the Philippines , predating those discovered in Tabon Cave, on the western island of Palawan by thousands of years.

While the archaeological finds could attract more scientists, Dizon worried that that it could also draw vandals and treasure hunters who could threaten the save-chamber cave complex, which is popular tourism destination.

An open air chapel with pews and altar in the cave complex has become a popular venue for weddings and filmmakers.

''Penablanca has been treasure hunting haven of many people,'' Dizon said., referring to the Cagayan provincial town where the Callao caves are located. ''Maybe it will reignite their kind of activity so that's why it needs protection now more than ever.''


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