The Tabon Man refers to a particular set of human remains, specifically of the species Homo sapiens sapiens - the “intelligent” or “modern” man – believed to be the first man in the Philippines.
The human remains, which include a skull cap (or frontal cranium), jaw bones and fragments of teeth, were excavated during 1960 to 1967 from the Tabon Cave in Lipuun Point, Municipality of Quezon in Palawan island by the National Museum Field Team headed by the late anthropologist, Dr. Robert Fox. The said fossils seem to belong to different people, probably at least three individuals. Although the remains were designated a “man,” recent study of the skull cap, particularly of its shape and size, suggests that it is that of a woman.
Based on the Carbon-14 dating tests conducted , the fossil remains date back to 22,000 to 24,000 years ago. Also found near the fossils were stone tools which proved that the cave was populated by peoples earlier than the Tabon Man – for instance, the Homo habilis species characterized by their tool making tradition, thus called the “handyman” or the smartest of the Australopithecines. The tools found were similar to those found in Cagayan Valley, although smaller, and to those found throughout the Lipuun Point. In fact, these same types of tools are still utilized at present by the indigenous peoples of Palawan.
Stone Age Man
Following the Theory of Evolution, and Robert Fox's division of the prehistoric period, the Tabon Man is dated as belonging to the Stone Age culture, and as such, knew the used of stone tools and weapons, but had not yet explored metal usages. Thus, the Tabon Man has the following characteristics:
- They were bipeds who had enlarged brains and increased cranial volume.
- They used simple stone tools to prepare their food or to cut bark and animal skins for their clothing.
- They had more efficient foraging strategies.
- They had developed a spoken language.
- They were more artistic, which shows their culture had surpassed their biological adaptation.
Similarities to Southeast Asian fossils
Tabon Cave Complex is a good area to trace Philippine relationship with other Southeast Asian countries, according to anthropologists and historians. Looking back to prehistory, there were three traced land bridges: (1) North Luzon to Taiwan to South China; (2) Palawan to Borneo; and (3) Sulu to Northeast Indonesia.
The artifacts and ecofacts found near the Tabon Man remains were similar to those excavated in Borneo (Malaysia) and Indonesia. These prove that the Philippines was once a part of Mainland Asia, sharing the same flora and fauna species.
In 2007, archaeologists Dr. Armand Mijares of the University of the Philippines and his team excavated a bone believed to be of a human at Callao Cave in Cagayan. The remains have been verified to be two dozen millenia older than the Tabon Man, therefore putting the latter's claim as the oldest humans in the Philippines into question. However, there are findings indicating that the Callao Man might not have been fully human, but only a species akin to the modern man.
- “Tabon Caves of Palawan.” National Commission for Culture and the Arts (accessed on July 31, 2007).
- “Palawan Optional Tours.” Filipino Travel Center (accessed on July 31, 2007).
- “People.” A Page for Philippine Prehistory (accessed on July 31, 2007)
- "Archeologists find human fossil older than Tabon Man in Cagayan." The Philippine Online Chronicles (Accessed 2 August 2010).