UP archeologists found a human settlement from ice age time in Pilanduk cave in Palawan

Pilanduk Cave in Palawan

A group of archaeologists from UP Diliman (UPD) and the National Museum have discovered new evidence that humans inhabited Pilanduk Cave in Palawan 20,000 to 25,000 years at the height of the last ice age.

The cave is a significant Late Pleistocene (ice age) archaeological site in the Philippines, according to a statement made on Monday by UPD archaeologist and lead research author Janine Ochoa and co-principal investigator Ame Garong from the National Museum.

With the help of new radiocarbon dates, Ochoa said it has been determined that humans first inhabited Pilanduk Cave between 20,000 and 25,000 years ago, during the LGM/Last Ice Age.

According to The Statesman‘s report, during the re-excavation, new data and evidence for specialized deer hunting and freshwater mollusk feeding were also gathered, as well as tiger fossils and remains of other Palawan native mammal and reptile fauna.

In order to “advance the prior research undertaken by Jonathan Kress and the National Museum in 1969-1970,” the two returned to the site in 2016 with their research team. From 2017 through 2020, they analyzed the archaeological material.

Due to the scarcity of stratigraphic information for Pilanduk and the limits of radiocarbon dating at the time of Kress’s excavation in the 1970s, particularly for dating mollusc remains, the two decided to re-excavate the site to confirm the dates reported by Kress.

Ochoa claims that the site has a large and well-preserved archaeological assemblage of faunal material, including stone tool assemblages, vertebrate bones, and shells and mollusks.

“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,” said Ochoa.

The study has already been published online and will appear in the October 2022 issue of the international archaeology magazine Antiquity.

“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. Jonathan passed away on 6 August 2022. The Pilanduk and Ille Cave teams remember him most fondly, especially for his joie de vivre and enthusiasm for field work, stone tools, and molluscs,”  said Ochoa.

She added “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.”

Left photo, Dr. Janine Ochoa inside Pilanduk Cave. Right photo, shows of the tiger foot bone recovered during the October 2016 excavation. (Photo by Pilanduk Cave Archeologists Team)

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