Friday, May 19, 2006

The Flores Island "hobbit" debate continues

This is really an "early history" topic.

Many readers probably remember the news of the discovery of fossils of very small humans or near-humans on the Indonesian island of Flores. Just in time to coincide with the cinematic Lord of the Rings, scholars revealed evidence that a mere 18,000 years ago (no time at all in the timescales appropriate to human evolution) there was a variant human species about the size of hobbits, running around in a rather isolated part of southeast Asia.

A big deal, if true.

There was always an alternative view, that H. floresiensis was not a different brand of humanity, a parallel line to our own ancestor, but simply a group of individuals suffering from the genetic condition of "microcephalia" who ended up in the same place. Well, that position is now getting a wider hearing. Don't expect this debate to end any time soon.

For more, see National Geographic.


Blogger Dr. Clam said...

It's always sad to find post without comments, I think. I've just come back to my office from a seminar by Prof Mike Morwood, and he said they've now identified 13 individuals at Liang Bua, between 95,000 and 12,000 years old- the specimens share the same radius/femur ratio, which is distinct from modern humans, and their skull measurements and morphological features cluster around those of H. erectus and not microcephalic H. sapiens. But you probably knew that already, since this is back in May. Your post just looked lonely! ;)

9:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish we had more information. I hope they find more soon. I try not to "want" to think they were one thing or another, but try to rationalize the best I can based on the evidence. I don't buy the microcephaly theory. I think it's possible, just very, very unlikley that a clan of handicapped people would survive to adulthood on stone age Flores. I guess they only have the one skull, but skeletal bones from several other individuals. So I do believe they were a "dwarfed" race... my only question being were they dwarfed homo sapiens, dwarfed homo erectus - or something in between, possibly even with genetic contribution from both lines?
Gosh, I can't wait until we have more bones!
On another note, did you hear Polynesians discovered America at least several decades before Columbus? (see recent news about chicken-bone DNA comparisons)

6:35 PM  

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