“Currently, it is widely accepted
that only one hominin genus, Homo, was present in Pleistocene Asia,
represented by two species, Homo erectus and Homo sapiens.
Both species are characterized by greater brain size, increased body
height and smaller teeth relative to Pliocene Australopithecus in
Africa. Here we report the discovery, from the Late Pleistocene of Flores,
Indonesia, of an adult hominin with stature and endocranial volume
approximating 1 m and 380 cm3, respectively—equal
to the smallest-known australopithecines. The combination of primitive and
derived features assigns this hominin to a new species, Homo
floresiensis. The most likely explanation for its existence on Flores
is long-term isolation, with subsequent endemic dwarfing, of an ancestral H.
erectus population. Importantly, H. floresiensis shows that the
genus Homo is morphologically more varied and flexible in its
adaptive responses than previously thought.”
This is the complete Abstract
from Nature, Vol 431, October 28, 2004, of the article titled: “A
new small-bodied hominin from the Late Pleistocene of Flores, Indonesia”
by P. Brown and M. J. Morwood, both from Archaeology &
Palaeoanthropology, School of Human & Environmental Studies,
University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales 2351, Australia, and
T. Sutikna, R. P.Soejono, Jatmiko, E. Wayhu Saptomo, and Rokus Awe
Due from Indonesian Centre for Archaeology, Jl. Raya Condet Pejaten No. 4,
Jakarta 12001, Indonesia.
give you this detail so there will be no doubt about the authenticity of
the information contained in this article. About a year ago these guys
really did discover remains that clearly can be interpreted as evidence
for another species of “human” that existed alongside our own
ancestors during the last hundred thousand years or so of our existence.
Morwood and Peter Brown, who head the investigative team of scientists
that made this discovery, have now added to their report from last year.
In the October 13, 2005, Nature these scientists report that they
have discovered further evidence of these “little people,” dubbed
“Hobbits” by the popular press.
they actually found was a lower jaw that was identical to one found last
year, but radio-carbon dated as three thousand years younger. The bones
discovered thus far seem to come from at least ten individuals over a
period ranging from 95,000 to about 12,000 years ago.
Hobbits were about three feet tall with heads about the size of
grapefruits, chimpanzee-sized but with human proportions. They would
appear to our modern eyes very much like miniature humans, or child-sized
adults. At this time it is difficult to say much about their intelligence,
but there is no real reason to believe that they were very much different
from modern humans.
discovered bones include several very well developed stone tools that
clearly indicate a relatively “sophisticated” society of little people
who apparently lived alongside their taller brothers. Information about
these little folk is still so sketchy that we cannot say whether or not
they coexisted peacefully or at war. What we can say is that – based
upon everything we know about human nature and our known history – the
extinction of these pint-sized humans may very well have been at the hands
of our own ancestors.
they appear to have been confined to the Indonesian island Flores, this
small population had no real chance to spread out beyond the confines of
its origin, and so met with eventual obliteration, probably (as I
surmised) at the hands of our own distant relatives.
this is science, and since we are dealing with surmise – albeit very
sophisticated surmise – not everyone agrees with Brown and colleagues.
In fact, two separate groups of scientists from Indonesia, Australia, the
United States, and Great Briton have announced that they will shortly
publish differing interpretations of the evidence from Flores that points
towards nothing more than a group of aberrant humans that lived in
relative isolation sufficiently long to establish the discovered remains.
D. Martin, who is a biological anthropologist and provost at the Field
Museum in Chicago indicated to the New
York Times as reported by John Wilford, that a more likely
explanation for the size of the Hobbits may be “island dwarfing,”
which is a situation where long-term isolated animals and people tend to
evolve smaller bodies, where their growth is constrained by limited
resources. Martin’s viewpoint represents the sense of the opposition in
any serious opposition needs to explain the nearly 100,000 year train of
fossil evidence. And Brown and colleagues need to find one or more older
fossils that clearly belong to the same species. If these older fossils
turn out to be larger than those already found, then island dwarfing is
the more likely explanation. On the other hand, if they are substantially
the same size or even smaller, then the opposition will have to come up
with another reasonable way to explain the evidence.
is science at work, folks – raw, unadulterated, exciting science at its
best. Nobody here is suggesting that some preexisting “intelligent
design” has been at play. Nobody is suggesting that Brown and his
colleagues are playing tricks on the world, nor do Brown and his guys
believe that Martin and the rest of the opposition are out to get them, or
to ruin their careers.
we have, plain and simple, is newly discovered evidence that needs to be
fit into our current picture of how humans developed. What makes this
especially interesting is that this new evidence has the potential for
upsetting several well-established lines of thought, with unpredictable
results. When the dust settles – and it will, eventually – our
understanding of how we humans came to be will be more complete. We will
have a firmer grasp on what took place during the dim eons of our distant
this matter for you and me in our daily existence today? Of course not;
but part of what we are takes great delight in being able to say: “I
know how I got here.”
how about those little people? Part of me will always wonder what might
have happened had they developed a better spear or even a bow.
we both be here today – or would the little people rule?