Law Innovations (Philippines)

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Posts Tagged ‘callao man’

67,000 Year-Old Callao Man & the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009

Posted by Oli Reyes on August 2, 2010

Speaking as one with a keen personal interest in human evolution and Philippine prehistory, I am tremendously excited by the discovery of what apparently are the oldest human remains ever found in the Philippines – the Callao Man, which at 67,000 years, predates Tabon Man by around 17,000 years. The discovery was made back in 2007, following an archaeological excavation of the Callao Caves in Cagayan Province led by Dr. Armando Mijares of the Archaeological Studies Program at UP Diliman. Callao Man consists of a single bone (the third metatarsal of the foot), yet it has been identified as a human, and there even is speculation that it might be of a pre-modern human species which if confirmed, will rewrite the story of evolution. Nonetheless, the Callao Man discovery is archaeologically significant not only because it is the oldest human remains in the Philippines (ang Unang Pinoy!), but also it lends credence to the theory that as far back as 67,000 years ago, humans were already capable of travelling long distances by sea, with no visible land masses in sight.

Though Callao Man was discovered back in 2007, it is the first significant archaelogical discovery in the Philippines since the enactment last December of the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009 (available for download from NCCA website, PDF format). The law was designed to conserve our nation’s cultural heritage by imposing protections on our cultural property. Interestingly, the language of the law does not contain any specific reference to human remains as among those objects which may be classified as cultural property, perhaps a sign that the legislators were queasy about the subject. In Civil Code conception, human remains are considered as property, and it is the immediate family members who control the interment or disposition of the body; while under the Organ Donation Act of 1991, it also is an immediate family member or guardian who is capacitated to donate an organ of a decedent who left no express wishes on that matter. Under Sec. 33 of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997, indigenous cultural communities or peoples have the right to repatriation of human remains, and it is possible that this right may soon come to clash with scientific examination of ancient human remains, similar to the dispute over Spirit Cave Man in Nevada.

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