The plains of Liwan on the western side of the Cagayan Valley near the border of the province of Kalinga-Apayao has been, in the previous years, a source of continual reports of the presence of the fossil remains of large animals now extinct in the Philippines.
These animals include elephants, rhinoceros, stegodon, and others. These reports interested paleontologists because these kinds of animals are usually found only in continents and not in small islands like the Philippines. The presence of these animals can only mean that once upon a time these islands were connected with the mainland of Asia. In truth, similar reports have been made from the Quezon City area, the Agusan Valley in the island of Mindanao and the island of Panay in Central Philippines. These reports led to the thinking that during the height of the last Ice Age when the level of the surface of the sea went down, underwater ridges were exposed to connect these islands to the continent of Asia. And over these land bridges, these large animals moved in search of food into this area. Later when the ice in the polar regions melted with the resulting rise of the level of the sea, the land bridges became submerged once more cutting off the connections to the continent and forming the chain of islands known now as the Philippines. There are, of course, other thoughts that the land corridors were not really continuous and that the large mammals like the early elephants swam across gaps between chains of islands. The controversy is not fully resolved. However, these animals lived for a long time in the islands, adapting to the island conditions. Through the long periods spent in the islands, dwarf forms of these animals developed as shown by the fossil evidence. Slowly these animals begun to disappear until finally becoming extinct. It is estimated that these animals last roamed in these islands some 250,000 years ago.
The scientists who worked in Cagayan Valley found that in the places where these fossils were found there were also fragments of stones that appeared to be like those used by ancient men as tools in other parts of the world, as in Indonesia and China. In these two countries fossils of man were found now known as the Java Man and the Peking Man. The datings were 1.5 million years and 750,000 years, respectively. If the stone fragments found near the fossils of extinct animals in Cagayan Valley were indeed tools of man, and if these tools can be said to be in the same time frame as the fossils, then there will be proof that man already existed in the Cagayan Valley when these animals were still living in the country. What remains is to be able to get a date of the age of these fossils and stone fragments. Of course, the aim of the work is to find the remains of man himself who made these stone tools.
The National Museum archeologists started to work in Cagayan Valley in the early 1970’s, first with the exploration and survey of all the places where fossils and stone tools appeared. These stone tools were made generally by striking a rock nodule with a stone hammer to break off a fragment. These rocks were usually different kinds of quartz which like glass will break off in fragments with sharp cutting edges. Sometimes, the edges of these fragments were still reworked to get the correct shape and angle for better use. These small stone fragments were used as tools. The larger stone tools were made from the rock core from which flakes are hammered off from one side to form a sharp point. Many flake and pebble-cobble tools were found on the surface of the ground and below the surface at times with fossils, and sometimes by themselves.
The initial problem was to determined the age of the materials. Just how old became the problem. In one of the many sites, two flake tools were found at 83 centimeters below the surface and a few meters beneath these were found the fossil remains of elephas, a kind of ancient elephant. Careful study showed that both the flake tools and the fossils were in the same layer of rock. After a number of years of study, it was determined that the rock layer, named the Awidon Mesa Formation, was formed over the western Cagayan Valley floor during the Ice Ages. But clearer proof was needed. A piece of tektite – a black glassy object that might have been volcanic material suddenly cooling in the atmosphere – was used for this purpose. The tektite could be used for dating in a way like using Carbon-14. In this case the method used the Potassium and Argon in the tektite for radiometric dating. The piece of tektite used came from the Awidon Mesa Formation. The date obtained from this single tektite was .92 million years with a margin of error that can range to .17 million years which is about 750,000 years ago. This date together with the other archeological data, are the first evidences for the presence of early man in the Philippines during the Ice Ages.
In Asia, as in Java and Peking, the man that lived during this time was the so-called Homo erectus orPithecanthropus erectus, a species of man that lived long before modern man as we know him today emerged. There is also the possibility that the species was than of an early grade of modern man. The species of modern man includes the Mamanua or the later Negrito who were long regarded among the early populations of the Philippines. Up to the present, however, no remains of the Cagayan Man have been found and the only proofs of his presence are the stone tools that he made and used, and the remains of the animals that he butchered.
From the little traces of what he has left 750,000 years ago, and knowing the general environment in which he lived, it is possible to some degree to have an idea of how Cagayan Man lived. The valley itself was wet and marshy while the surrounding areas were with deep forests. The kinds of trees and other plants then were similar to those living in this country at present. The most noticeable of the animals were the large mammals that included various species of ancient kinds of elephants like elephas and stegodon, rhinoceros, deer, wild pig, giant crocodile and tortoise, among the more common animals that live at present. Each of these species of animals lived within their own niches. The Cagayan Man was part of this natural system. The human population was small compared to the plant and animal populations, and the number was further subdivided into groups of persons that were related to one another, like those who were members of a single family or a number of related families. Each grouping would be occupying a certain area within the valley and the members seldom go out of this area, except probably to get in touch with other groups that were somehow related also to him. The size of each area would be large enough for all the members of one grouping to be able to get their livelihood from the resources available in the environment. Roughly, this area might be close to ten square kilometers, at times larger and sometimes smaller. The number of members in each group may range from 30 to 60 individuals, but usually the number was not big. During the times when food was plentiful, the number of members would increase, and this would also become smaller when getting food becomes difficult. Individuals or even families might move away from the group to another area or to join another group in a place where food was more abundant. The basic social unit was the family group which included other close kins who have joined the family. The group that occupied a single territory was composed of a number of closely related family units. The relatives of both the father and mother were looked upon by the children as equally related to them.
Since there was a balance between the natural environment and the size of the population, there were enough food resources usually to support a group within a territory. Since the number of people was little enough, their effect on the environment was not enough to damage it such that nature could no longer recover. The people obtain food without destroying nature. People during these times did not produce their own food, but gathered them from nature directly. Foraging is the basic way for getting food among the early peoples. They do this by gathering things that can be eaten directly with the least preparation like fruits, young shoots, leaves, stems, flowers, tubers from the different plants in their environment. They also collect for food shells, fish, crabs, worms, slugs, larvae, and other small animals as well as things that animals produce like honey and eggs. It has been estimated that about two thirds of what the ancient peoples ate were gathered. Only about one third of their food comes from the hunting of animals. This is because it is easier to gather food than to hunt wild animals so that in the same amount of time more food can be gathered than hunted. Also, food gathering can be done by all members of the family excepting the very old, sick, and the very young, while hunting can be done only by the more mature, able-bodied individuals. One other factor is that even during modern times it is difficult to hunt animals except for the very old, sick and very young that cannot run fast. This is more difficult because the tools used for hunting were not very good unlike the guns of modern times. It is probable that simple traps were used.
While at this stage man did not yet have the knowledge of raising crops for food. It is probable that he already had some idea of how plants grow and increase from observing nature. When he digs out a tuber, for example, he would notice later that the vine from which he got it would again grow after some time and produce other tubers. He then helps nature by putting back to the soil the end of the vine from which he got the tuber for it to grow other tubers again. This is a simple kind of plant cultivation that must have been practiced by the early peoples to add more to their food sources. From practices like these after thousands of years would lead at last to the domestication of different plants and the planting of entire fields with many kinds of crops.
Since food gathering is done by almost all the members of the family, the practice would be for the whole group to move together in gathering food, eating when the chance comes during the day. Some amount of food were kept to be eaten later on but not much of this was done since there would be no containers available except perhaps for large leaves or palm sheaths or what one could hold in hand. One social rule that could be common is the sharing of food regardless of age or sex within a group. Members of families shared food between themselves; shared or exchanged food with other families within their group. The extent of the sharing of the food usually shows the range of the kinship of one group with another. Groups not shared food with are usually not thought to be members of a kin group.
The food gathered needs little preparation before being eaten specially those obtained from plants. The use of fire in preparing food for a meal is minimal. Men of this species are already known to have used fire as the Peking Man of China. It is probable that early man in this country would have also known the use of fire although the evidence for this has been dated only to about 30,000 B.C. in Palawan. Fire could have been obtained earlier from natural sources and tended for long periods of times or produced later through friction.
The dress of the early peoples consisted of the simplest materials obtained from their environment. Isolated peoples found in some mountains today use plant materials from the forest for clothing. The Tasaday, for instance, use the leaves of the ground orchid, called Corculigo sp. to cover the lower part of their body. For a belt they use a length of vine, twisting both ends together into a knot to hold tight. Others use the sheath of the abaca plant instead of leaves. Men, women and children use the same kind of clothing.
While a group would be occupying one large territory where they move about through a season. It is probable that they use a one place as a more or less permanent home from which they move about in their daily activities, and to which they return for the night. In some places the convenient sites would be rock shelters and ledges, or mouths of caves where it is dry and receive enough light. A rock overhang that can give protection from the rain and direct sunlight, and near some water sources would be ideal. Here each individual would have his own favorite place; and each family grouping would also have their own place that they frequent. In places where there are no caves, living areas are made between buttress roots of large trees with large leaves for roofing or something similar. The family members of each group would be settling down near each other. Where ever the living area is made, a water source is always nearby for this is needed not only for drinking, or washing when this is needed, but water sources are also places where food can be gathered easily like fish, snails, frogs, tadpoles, crabs, shrimps, and where other animals go to drink. During certain times of the year when food resources become available in places farther on, the group may leave their place of living to other campsites where they spend a few days before again returning to their chosen home area. This home place is where much of the social activities are held, since the daily food gathering work is largely family action. Studies tend to show that actually much more time is used in social activities than that spent for getting food. As little as one third of their waking hours is used for food gathering. They have more time for leisure than for work.
This Old Stone Age society is a kind where all the individuals are considered equal to one another in terms of the rights of each one with respect to the others in the group. Respect is given to age, and individual prowess and ability are recognized. There are no leaders that could be said to be above everybody else and whose commands are obeyed without question. In some cases, one who is known for good decisions is consulted when a problem arises; or well-known hunter will be asked to lead a hunting group. A person recognized as a healer will be asked to cure some one. A particularly strong individual may assume some leadership but this is limited to that person only and only for a single occasion, thus his son need not be the leader to take his place in case of death. It was probable that the group acted as a whole and the decision to do anything is arrived at by mutual consent of all the members.
The early population of man in the Cagayan Valley during the middle of the Ice Ages lived in ways similar to the above – described way, living always in the open among the many kinds of large animals. Thousands of years later these animals began to be fewer and fewer in number, until finally disappearing. Only the fossils that are to be found later in the 20th century remained. Cagayan Man, too, disappeared without a trace except for the tools that he made that survived time like the fossils of the animals. But these types of tools, however, appear to have been used by other men through time. For a long period these kinds of tools did not change and were the basic tools of other peoples that lived after the Cagayan Man.