Sunday, July 27, 2008

Evidence of Ancient Tigers In Palawan, Philippines Unearthed

Archaeologists first discovered that tigers once thrived in Palawan in the Philippines 12,000 years ago when paw bones were unearthed in the Westmouth excavation of the Ille Cave and Rockshelter in 2004. Recently, a new tiger bone, specifically that of the basal phalanx (toe bone) were found by scientists of The Palawan Island Paleohistoric Project led by Dr. Helen Lewis and Dr. Victor Paz in excavations in the Dewil Valley.

The findings, participated in by the Archaeological Studies Program (ASP) of the University of the Philippines, shed new light on life in prehistoric Philippines more than 10,000 years ago. Dr. Philip Piper, a member of the ASP, says tigers probably entered Palawan from Borneo 620,000 or 420,000 years ago by traveling across the Balabac strait when the gap between the islands was but a few kilometers. He says environmental conditions or the intervention of humans could have made the move possible. The tigers could have been hunted down to extinction by the early inhabitants of Palawan.

Interestingly, a model of the Earth during the last ice age 18 thousand years ago (below) - when ocean levels were considerably lower - appears to show Palawan connected to Borneo (as well as the Sulu group of islands) - although a sliver of ocean still stood between Palawan and Mindoro. During that time, it would have been possible to travel from Luzon, down to Tawi-Tawi, into Malaysia onwards to the tip of South America, passing through Central Asia, into Europe, then to Alaska, and down to Central and ultimately to Tierra del Fuego in South America!

Other areas in the Philippines currently of interest to archaeologists are Cagayan de Oro, Batangas, and Cagayan Valley, where pygmy elephants or stegodons used to roam and where stone tools were found that could indicate habitation of pre modern humans - although there are no remains found to support this notion. The earliest modern human habitation known in the Philippines with bones as evidence is in Tabon cave, also in Palawan, and dates to over 30,000 years ago.

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