April 24, 2024
NATIONAL CULTURAL TREASURE SITE — The archaeological site in Rizal, Kalinga has been declared as ‘National Cultural Treasure’ by the National Museum, highlighting the Heritage Month celebration. Archaeological findings at the site were dated to 709,000 years ago. The archaeological excavations have shown extinct animal remains that of monitor lizard, the box turtle, the Philippine brown deer, the stegodon (a cousin of the elephant) and the rhinoceros. — National Museum of the Philippines photos

The National Museum of the Philippines has recently has declared the archeological site where the 709,000-year-old fossils of animals and stone tools were found in Rizal, Kalinga, as a national cultural treasure through an official marker.

Located at Sitio Greenhills, Barangay San Pedro, the archeological site is protected for its “outstanding historical, cultural, artistic and/or scientific value which is significant and important to the country and to the nation.”

Municipal Tourism Action Officer Imay Lawad said the National Museum is in charge of the excavations being conducted at the site by archeologists and researchers. 

The excavations have been ongoing yearly since 2011 by archeologists from the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle of France then led by Thomas Ingico with archeologists and researchers from the University of the Philippines and personnel from the National Museum. 

It was in 2014 that the archeologists made their biggest discovery of 57 stone tools, 75 percent skeleton of a butchered rhinoceros called Rhinoceros Philippinensis, together with more than 400 bones attributed to the now extinct stegodon (family of elephants and mammoths), Philippine brown deer, freshwater turtle and monitor lizard.

The fossils were found in the “clay rich bone bed” which is traced back to 709,000 to 608,000 years ago during the Pleistocene epoch, known as the last ice age. 

The archeologists’ study was announced to the world in the science journal Nature in 2018, where they noted the diverse technology employed by ancient Kalinga stonemakers evidenced by the various tools including a stone hammer.

In one sample of the rhino bones stu-died, a scar was found on the bone surface used with a stone tool “usually made with the aim to reach the marrow.”

Until the 2014 archeological findings in the town that pushed back the first known human activity in the country 10 times earlier, the oldest fossil discovered in the country was the foot bone found in Callao Cave in Cagayan Valley in 2010, which is at least 67,000 years old. This challenged the earlier discovery of the Tabon Man in Palawan in the 1960s, which was then believed as the archipelago’s earliest human remains at 50,000 years old.

Lawad said the archeologists are expected to continue their work in June or in July.

Rizal passed resolutions to “protect, preserve, and promote” the site and urged the help of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Tourism, National Historical Commission of the Philippines, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, and other stakeholders in delineating the site.

Lawad said although the site has been declared as part of the archeological reservation areas in Cagayan Valley region and in Kalinga and Apayao through Presidential Decree 1109 issued on March 28, 1977, some portions of the area have slowly been occupied.

The archaeological investigations of the Kalinga site are funded by the French Department for Foreign Affairs, the National Museum of the Philippines, UP, and the National Geographic Society.

The municipality welcomes visitors who want to view the archeological site. – Ofelia C. Empian