30,000 Years of Fishing in the Philippines: New Ichthyoarchaeological Investigations in Occidental Mindoro

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Marine adaptations are considered to have been significant factors in the evolution of our species (Homo sapiens). As humans dispersed from Africa around 100 kya, marine resources provided essential nutrients in island environments of the tropical Southeast Asian seas. The Philippine archipelago has revealed significant evidence of early human settlement during this period of coastal migration. Yet, despite being a global marine biodiversity hotspot, few studies have investigated prehistoric marine adaptations there. In this study, we focus on the analysis of fish bones from three sites in Occidental Mindoro, Philippines: Bubog I, Bubog II, and Bilat Cave with the aim of enhancing the understanding of H. sapiens' coastal adaptations and maritime interactions since at least 32,000 BP. We utilized expanded skeletal element identification protocols to determine the lowest taxonomic level possible, combined with diversity indices. The analyses indicate that H. sapiens on Mindoro mostly exploited near-shore environments, with temporal variations in fishing practices reflecting differences in site occupation intensity and periods of climate-mediated habitat change. Inter-site variations in fishing practices are likely related to disparities in local marine habitats. Spatiotemporal differences in marine environments influenced the development of diverse fishing methods and technologies, demonstrating a detailed knowledge of local aquatic environments and the adaptability of modern humans in Island Southeast Asia since the Pleistocene.