Hobbits (Homo floresiensis)

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Hobbits again

Finally: more bones. Last October the world marveled at the announcement of the discovery of a new species of hominid, Homo floresiensis, in a cave called Liang Bua on the Indonesian island of Flores. One conclusion was more shocking than the next. First, this hominid stood only three feet high, earning it the nickname The…

In October 2004 Australian and Indonesian announced they had discovered a three-foot tall species of hominid, Homo floresiensis, that was still alive no earlier than18,000 years ago. As Iíve detailed in previous posts, this claim has inspired a lot of debate, much which revolves around whether the fossils, found on the Indonesian island of Flores…

Return to Hobbit Limbo

So letís recap: Itís been almost eight months now since scientists announced the discovery of Homo floresiensis, the diminutive people that some claim belong to a new branch of hominid evolution and skeptics claim were just small humans. We seem to have entered a lull in the flow of new scientific information about Homo floresiensis.…

Hobbits Alive?

The feud over Homo floresiensis, the little people of Indonesia, centers on whether they were an extinct diminutive species that evolved from some ancient hominid, such as Homo erectus, or whether they were just pygmy humans, perhaps suffering from some disease. The leading skeptic, paleoanthropologist Teuku Jacob, has claimed that there are pygmies living not…

Trouble in Middle Earth?

I’ve been catching up on my online reading, and a couple days ago John Hawks offered this tantalizing hint that Homo floresiensis a k a the Hobbit may be a pathological specimen. Such claims have been made before based on the small skull of the hominid, but they’ve been pretty powerfully rebutted. But Hawks is…

The Hobbit’s Brain

At 1 p.m. today I listened by phone to a press conference in Washington where scientists presented the first good look inside a Hobbit’s head. The view is fascinating. While it may help clear up some mysteries, it seems to throw others wide open. Last October, a team of Australian scientists declared that they had…

Return of the Prodigal Bones

The Sydney Morning Herald reports today that the bones of Homo floresiensis, aka the Hobbits, have at last been returned to the team that originally discovered them. The team, made up of Indonesian and Australian scientists, discovered the bones on the Indonesian island of Flores. Last October they declared that they had found a new…

The Hobbit War: An Indonesian View

The Guardian has a long but disjointed report about the dispute over Homo floresiensis. Articles like these rarely give a very good picture of scientific disputes, since all parties involved only get a couple catchy quotes apiece. I’ve been particularly puzzled by Teuku Jacob, the elderly Indonesian paleoanthropologist who sparked the controversy by taking possession…

Hominid Sculpture

The Australian media are doing a fantastic job of keeping up with the developments with Homo floresiensis. Here’s the first three-dimensional reconstruction I’ve seen of the little hominid, made by an Australian archaeologist. It’s published on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s web site. I’m sure that as more bones emerge, the image will improve, but this…

Bones on the Loose

Homo floresiensis update: The Economist weighs in on the "borrowing" of the fossils. They mention that when the bones were removed, they were simply stuffed in a leather bag. This is not exactly the sort of procedure you see in protocols for avoiding contamination of ancient DNA. In the Australian, the discoverers of "Florence" vow…