Mobility and Maritime Interaction During the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene in the Philippines

Alfred Pawlik1, Riczar Fuentes1, Clara Boulanger2, Rintaro Ono3, Marian Reyes4, Philip Piper5

1Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines

2Minpaku National Museum of Ethnology, Department of Modern Society and Civilization, Japan

3National Museum of Ethnology, Japan

4National Museum of the Philippines, Philippines

5School of Archaeology and Anthropology, Australian National University, Australia

Mindoro, like the majority of the Philippine archipelago, is located east of Huxley’s Line, a biogeographic boundary that separates the Sunda shelf region of Southeast Asia and Wallacea, and has never been connected to the mainland by land bridges. Our multidisciplinary project on the archaeology of Mindoro aims to determine how environmental, sea level and land mass variability during the Pleistocene and early Holocene influenced the mobility, subsistence, behaviour and cognitive advances of early modern humans in the region, and how they utilised the different environments and resources they encountered. Excavations in several caves and rock shelters at the southern end of Occidental Mindoro have yielded a range of information indicating that Mindoro may have served as entry point for early Homo sapiens into the oceanic islands of the Philippines. The archaeological deposits can be connected to a radiocarbon chronology from c. 35,000 cal. BP until the Late Holocene. Cultural material and biological remains retrieved from the Mindoro sites as well as from similarly old sites from across the region suggest that the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene in particular were periods of increasing mobility, significant social change and technological innovation. The successful adaptation to coastal and marine environments and the efficient use of its diverse resources probably ensured a rather successful subsistence strategy for those early islanders, perhaps even in the sense of Sahlins' concept of the original affluent society.