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How Fossil Discoveries Are Proving the Need to Invest in the Sciences

The latest discovery in Pompeii has proved that research plays an important role in understanding human history.

Back in 79 A.D., one of the deadliest volcano eruptions in European history happened. On October 25 that year, Mount Vesuvius—a stratovolcanoerupted and effectively buried cities in the southern part of Italy, the most known being Pompeii.

An estimated 16,000 people were killed in the eruption that lasted for 18 hours, and the city of Pompeii was left under meters of ash and pumice, only to be ‘rediscovered’ in the 16th century by architect Domenico Fontana. And since then, archaeologists have been making discoveries in the ancient Roman city. (Read: Have you seen these hidden Marian images in Rome?)

Now, more than 400 years after the rediscovery of the city of Pompeii, a team of experts at the archaeological park unearthed two skeletal remains who were buried under the ashes from the explosion. The bodies were found in a room beside an underground passageway (called a cryptoporticus back then) in a villa. “The victims were probably looking for shelter in the cryptoporticus, in this underground space, where they thought they were better protected,” said Massimo Osanna, archaeologist and director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii.

The discovery serves as further evidence for the tragic eruption that occurred 2,000 years ago, and helps experts understand the events that unfolded on that fateful day. 

Discoveries in the Philippines

Remains were discovered at the Callao caves near Penablanca, 210 miles north of Manila, and named Homo luzonensis after the island of Luzon on which it was found. (Photo from AFP / The Sun)

But it isn’t just in Italy that fossils, skeletal remains, and other important artifacts are discovered. In fact, just in April 2019, researchers in the Philippines had a groundbreaking discovery—a new species of ancient humans.

The team, led by archaeologist Armand Mijares of the University of the Philippines Diliman, found seven teeth and six bone fragments in Callao Cave in Cagayan and dubbed it the Homo Luzonensis. According to Mijares, the discovery further ‘challenges the outdated idea’ that humans evolved “neatly” from a less advanced to more advanced species. (Read: Scientists discover new snake species, names it after a Harry Potter character)

“This new discovery made me thrilled. It further highlights [the] remarkable diversity of archaic (primitive) hominins once present in Asia, in a way beyond my expectation,” said Yousufe Kaifu, a paleoanthropologist from the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo, Japan. 

The discovery is a landmark as it opens the discussion on ancient human activity. Mijares also found 25,000-year-old evidence of human activity in the cave back in 2003, a 67,000-year-old fossil in 2010, and more over a span of a few years.

In addition, back in 2014, another team of experts from the National Museum of the Philippines (NMP) and Muséum Nationale d’Histoire Naturelle (MNHN) also found fossils in Kalinga, which now proves ‘human presence in the Philippines ten times older than previously thought’.

Investing in Science

These discoveries emphasize the importance of investing in the sciences, research, and technology. Dr. Sarah Lynne Daway-Ducanes, an assistant professor from the School of Economics of the University of the Philippines (UP), says investing in science and research can help provide a deeper understanding of how the world works, how we evolved as humans, and how our country—and the world—became the way it is today.

“By educating people and investing on health programs for them, we can be able to create a healthier workforce. Through technological improvements, the production output is doubled even just using the same number of skilled workers,” said Dr. Daway-Ducanes back in 2019.

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