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Old March 26th, 2008 #1
Alex Linder
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Default Homo Floresiensis

GW ANTHROPOLOGY RESEARCH TEAM FINDS THAT "HOBBIT" FOSSIL EVIDENCE IS LINKED TO HUMAN EVOLUTION

WASHINGTON - Researchers at The George Washington University present new evidence to support the theory that the fossil species Homo floresiensis, known as the "Hobbit," represents a unique human lineage that diverged from our own, possibly as long ago as 1.7 million years ago, and strikes another blow against the idea that human evolution occurred in a linear progression. The research appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

(Media-Newswire.com) - WASHINGTON - Researchers at The George Washington University present new evidence to support the theory that the fossil species Homo floresiensis, known as the "Hobbit," represents a unique human lineage that diverged from our own, possibly as long ago as 1.7 million years ago, and strikes another blow against the idea that human evolution occurred in a linear progression. The research appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The skeletal remains, found in Indonesia in 2003, have been dubbed "Hobbit" because of their small stature and the small brain size of the one individual with a skull ( known as Liang Bua 1, or LB1 ). The skeleton indicates that it was a full-grown adult female, but stood at only three feet tall and had a brain about one-third the size of modern adult humans. Scientists have debated whether the remains, which cover a span from before 38,000 years ago to at least 18,000 years ago, represent modern human individuals who suffered from a disorder that caused their small build and small brain size, versus a new human species, Homo floresiensis.

"This should be the final nail in the coffin of the exotic pathological explanations of the H. floresiensis material, but doubtless advocates of such explanations will find yet more ingenious ways of explaining away one of the most exciting, if not the most exciting, and intriguing paleoanthropological discoveries," said co-author Bernard Wood, GW University Professor and director of the hominid paleobiology doctoral program. "The thought that these creatures co-existed in time, if not in the same location, with modern humans emphasizes the extent to which evolution can still hold surprises for us."

Previously researchers faced complications, because direct comparisons of the skull shape between the "Hobbit" and modern humans could be misleading. They thought that because the skull of LB1 is so much smaller than those of modern humans that the shapes may differ because of size variations.

GW researchers Adam Gordon, Lisa Nevell, and Bernard Wood developed a novel way to compare the shape of the "Hobbit's" skull with what the shape of modern human skulls would be like in individuals as small as the "Hobbit." Using these new methods, they have shown that the "Hobbit's" skull is shaped nothing like that of a modern human, whether or not size differences are taken into account. Instead, it is similar to our possible ancestors belonging to the species Homo erectus and Homo habilis found in Africa and the Republic of Georgia, which are about 1.7 million years old. This result is consistent with the most recent analyses of the skeleton that also suggest it was similar to older species.

"What's interesting about this is that the 'Hobbit' doesn't closely resemble the younger Homo erectus material from Indonesia, arguing for an ancient divergence of this species from the lineage that produced modern humans," said Gordon, postdoctoral research fellow with GW's Center for the Advanced Study of Hominid Paleobiology. "We're looking at a different human lineage that split from our own possibly as much as 1.7 million years ago or more, and persisted up to the time when modern humans started peopling the Americas. That's pretty exciting."

Nevell, co-lead author and a graduate student in the GW hominid paelobiology program, notes implications of the study for the possibility that the "Hobbits" represent pathological modern human individuals.

"The LB1 and Homo erectus crania differed from scaled modern human skulls in the same way. We are not aware of any inherited genetic condition that would cause modern human crania to so closely resemble the shape of Homo erectus," Nevell said.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America ( PNAS ) is one of the world's most-cited multidisciplinary scientific serials. Since its establishment in 1914, it continues to publish cutting-edge research reports, commentaries, reviews, perspectives, colloquium papers, and actions of the academy. Coverage in PNAS spans the biological, physical, and social sciences. PNAS is published weekly in print, and daily online in PNAS Early Edition.

Located four blocks from the White House, The George Washington University was created by an Act of Congress in 1821. Today, GW is the largest institution of higher education in the nation's capital. The university offers comprehensive programs of undergraduate and graduate liberal arts study as well as degree programs in medicine, public health, law, engineering, education, business, and international affairs. Each year, GW enrolls a diverse population of undergraduate, graduate, and professional students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and more than 130 countries.

For more information about the Center for the Advanced Study of Hominid Paleobiology, visit www.gwu.edu/~hogwash/.
For more news about GW, visit the GW News Center at www.gwnewscenter.org.

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Old May 3rd, 2009 #2
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A Tiny Hominid With No Place on the Family Tree

By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD
Published: April 27, 2009

STONY BROOK, N.Y. — Six years after their discovery, the extinct little people nicknamed hobbits who once occupied the Indonesian island of Flores remain mystifying anomalies in human evolution, out of place in time and geography, their ancestry unknown. Recent research has only widened their challenge to conventional thinking about the origins, transformations and migrations of the early human family.

Indeed, the more scientists study the specimens and their implications, the more they are drawn to heretical speculation.

¶Were these primitive survivors of even earlier hominid migrations out of Africa, before Homo erectus migrated about 1.8 million years ago? Could some of the earliest African toolmakers, around 2.5 million years ago, have made their way across Asia?

¶Did some of these migrants evolve into new species in Asia, which moved back to Africa? Two-way traffic is not unheard of in other mammals.

¶Or could the hobbits be an example of reverse evolution? That would seem even more bizarre; there are no known cases in primate evolution of a wholesale reversion to some ancestor in its lineage.

The possibilities get curiouser and curiouser, said William L. Jungers of Stony Brook University, making hobbits “the black swan of paleontology — totally unpredicted and inexplicable.”

Everything about them seems incredible. They were very small, not much more than three feet tall, yet do not resemble any modern pygmies. They walked upright on short legs, but might have had a peculiar gait obviating long-distance running. The single skull that has been found is no bigger than a grapefruit, suggesting a brain less than one-third the size of a human’s, yet they made stone tools similar to those produced by other hominids with larger brains. They appeared to live isolated on an island as recently as 17,000 years ago, well after humans had made it to Australia.

Although the immediate ancestor of modern humans, Homo erectus, lived in Asia and the islands for hundreds of thousands of years, the hobbits were not simply scaled-down erectus. In fact, erectus and Homo sapiens appear to be more closely related to each other than either is to the hobbit, scientists have determined.

It is no wonder, then, that the announcement describing the skull and the several skeletons as remains of a previously unknown hominid species, Homo floresiensis, prompted heated debate. Critics contended that these were merely modern human dwarfs afflicted with genetic or pathological disorders.

Scientists who reviewed hobbit research at a symposium here last week said that a consensus had emerged among experts in support of the initial interpretation that H. floresiensis is a distinct hominid species much more primitive than H. sapiens. On display for the first time at the meeting was a cast of the skull and bones of a H. floresiensis, probably an adult female.

Several researchers showed images of hobbit brain casts in comparison with those of deformed human brains. They said this refuted what they called the “sick hobbit hypothesis.” They also reported telling shoulder and wrist differences between humans and the island inhabitants.

Even so, skeptics have not capitulated. They note that most of the participants at the symposium had worked closely with the Australian and Indonesian scientists who made the discovery in 2003 and complain that their objections have been largely ignored by the news media and organizations financing research on the hobbits.

Some prominent paleoanthropologists are reserving judgment, among them Richard Leakey, the noted hominid fossil hunter who is chairman of the Turkana Basin Institute at Stony Brook University. Like other undecided scientists, he cited the need to find more skeletons at other sites, especially a few more skulls.

Mr. Leakey conceded, however, that the recent research “greatly strengthened the possibility” that the Flores specimens represented a new species.

At the symposium, Michael J. Morwood, an archaeologist at the University of Wollongong in Australia who was one of the discoverers, said that further investigations of stone tools had determined that hominids arrived at Flores as early as 880,000 years ago and “it is reasonable to assume that those were ancestors of the hobbits.” But none of their bones have been uncovered, so they remain unidentified, and no modern human remains have been found there earlier than 11,000 years ago.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/28/sc...ml?ref=science
 
Old May 3rd, 2009 #3
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[same story pg 2]

Excavations are continuing at Liang Bua, a wide-mouth cave in a hillside where the hobbit bones were found in deep sediments, but no more skulls or skeletons have turned up. Dr. Morwood said the search would be extended to other Flores sites and nearby islands.

Peter Brown, a paleontologist at the University of New England in Australia, said that his examination of the premolars and lower jaws of the specimens made it almost immediately “very, very clear that this was a hominid in the wrong place at the wrong time.” The first premolars in particular, he said, were larger than a human’s and had a crown and roots unlike those of H. sapiens or H. erectus.

Dr. Brown, a co-author of the original discovery report, said that no known disease or abnormality in humans could have “replicated this condition.”

At first, Dr. Brown and colleagues hypothesized that the hobbits were descendants of H. erectus that populated the region and had evolved their small stature because they lived in isolation on an island. Island dwarfing is a recognized phenomenon in which larger species diminish in size over time in response to limited resources.

The scientists soon backed off from that hypothesis. For one thing, dwarfing reduces stature, but not brain size. Moreover, researchers said, the hobbit bore little resemblance to an erectus.

In an analysis of the hobbit’s wrist bones, Matthew W. Tocheri of the Smithsonian Institution found that certain bones were wedge-shaped, similar to those in apes, and not squared-off, as in humans and Neanderthals. This suggested that its species diverged from the human lineage at least one million to two million years ago.

So if several lines of evidence now encourage agreement that H. floresiensis was a distinct and primitive hominid, the hobbit riddle can be compressed into a single question of far-reaching importance: where did these little people come from?

“Once you establish that this is a unique species,” said Frederick E. Grine, a paleoanthropologist at Stony Brook, “then these primitive features that it has suddenly take on a profound evolutionary significance.”

Scientists said in reports and interviews that they had only recently begun contemplating possible ancestries.

As a starting point, scientists rule out island dwarfing as a primary explanation. Dwarfs and pygmies are simply diminutive humans; they do not become more apelike, as the hobbits appear to be in some aspects. Besides, normal dwarfing would suggest that the hobbits presumably evolved from H. erectus, the only previous hominids identified in this part of Asia or anywhere outside Africa; the first one was discovered in Java in the late 19th century. But research has found few similarities between the hobbit skeleton and Asian H. erectus.

If the hobbit is a throwback to much earlier hominids, scientists said, reverse evolution would be the most far-fetched explanation. Dr. Jungers, a paleoanthropologist who organized the symposium, said there were no known examples of mammals becoming significantly reduced in size and anatomy as a consequence of reverting to an ancestral form.

“Is it possible?” he asked rhetorically. “If that is the case, it is unprecedented and a tremendous discovery.”

Several scientists think the answer to hobbit ancestry lies deeper in the hominid past. If this species is unlike H. erectus, it presumably descended from even earlier small-bodied migrants out of Africa that preceded erectus into Asia. Just the thought questions conventional wisdom.

Possible candidates include Homo habilis, the first and least known species of the Homo genus. The short, small-brained habilis might have emerged as early as 2.3 million years ago and lived to co-exist with the brainier, long-limbed H. erectus. At present, erectus fossils, found in the republic of Georgia and dated at 1.8 million to 1.7 million years ago, are the earliest well-established evidence for hominids outside Africa.

If hobbits resemble habilis in some respects, scientists said, it indicates that habilis or something like it possibly left Africa earlier and became the likely hobbit ancestor.

Another possible ancestor might even have been a pre-Homo species of the Australopithecus genus. The first evidence for stone toolmaking in Africa, at least 2.5 million years ago, is associated with australopithecines. Several scientists called attention to skeletal similarities between hobbits and A. afarensis, the species famously represented by the 3.2-million-year-old Lucy skeleton from Ethiopia.

The suggestion that the H. floresiensis ancestor might have reached Asia a million years before H. erectus left Africa was raised earlier this month at a meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

And then there is the idea, raised again at the symposium, of hominid migrations out of Africa and back. Dr. Jungers advised abandoning the old image of the long-limbed H. erectus striding out of Africa in the first wave of hominids making their way in the world.

“Why think they couldn’t have done it many times, even before erectus?” he said. “Other mammals have migrated in and out of Africa.”

The idea revived speculation that erectus itself might have evolved in Asia from an earlier migrant from Africa, and then found its way back to the land of its ancestors. Similarly, other hominids arriving in distant parts of Asia might have churned out new species, among them the hobbits.

Robert B. Eckhardt of Penn State University, an ardent hobbit skeptic, is unyielding in his opposition to the interpretation that the Flores skull belongs to a previously unrecognized species. He insists that it will prove to be from a modern human stricken with microcephaly or a similar developmental disorder that shrinks the head and brain.

“Convincing others is much more difficult than I thought it would be at the outset,” Dr. Eckhardt acknowledged in an e-mail message, “but increasingly it is becoming evident that what is at stake is not just some sample of specimens, but instead the central paradigm of an entire subfield.”

Susan G. Larson, an anatomist at the Stony Brook School of Medicine who analyzed the non-human properties of the hobbit shoulders, said in an interview that the investigations had entered “a period of wait and see.”

“Someday,” Dr. Larson said, “people may be saying, why was everyone so puzzled back then — it’s plain to see where the little people of Flores came from.”
 
Old May 3rd, 2009 #4
Alex Linder
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[same story pg 2]

Excavations are continuing at Liang Bua, a wide-mouth cave in a hillside where the hobbit bones were found in deep sediments, but no more skulls or skeletons have turned up. Dr. Morwood said the search would be extended to other Flores sites and nearby islands.

Peter Brown, a paleontologist at the University of New England in Australia, said that his examination of the premolars and lower jaws of the specimens made it almost immediately “very, very clear that this was a hominid in the wrong place at the wrong time.” The first premolars in particular, he said, were larger than a human’s and had a crown and roots unlike those of H. sapiens or H. erectus.

Dr. Brown, a co-author of the original discovery report, said that no known disease or abnormality in humans could have “replicated this condition.”

At first, Dr. Brown and colleagues hypothesized that the hobbits were descendants of H. erectus that populated the region and had evolved their small stature because they lived in isolation on an island. Island dwarfing is a recognized phenomenon in which larger species diminish in size over time in response to limited resources.

The scientists soon backed off from that hypothesis. For one thing, dwarfing reduces stature, but not brain size. Moreover, researchers said, the hobbit bore little resemblance to an erectus.

In an analysis of the hobbit’s wrist bones, Matthew W. Tocheri of the Smithsonian Institution found that certain bones were wedge-shaped, similar to those in apes, and not squared-off, as in humans and Neanderthals. This suggested that its species diverged from the human lineage at least one million to two million years ago.

So if several lines of evidence now encourage agreement that H. floresiensis was a distinct and primitive hominid, the hobbit riddle can be compressed into a single question of far-reaching importance: where did these little people come from?

“Once you establish that this is a unique species,” said Frederick E. Grine, a paleoanthropologist at Stony Brook, “then these primitive features that it has suddenly take on a profound evolutionary significance.”

Scientists said in reports and interviews that they had only recently begun contemplating possible ancestries.

As a starting point, scientists rule out island dwarfing as a primary explanation. Dwarfs and pygmies are simply diminutive humans; they do not become more apelike, as the hobbits appear to be in some aspects. Besides, normal dwarfing would suggest that the hobbits presumably evolved from H. erectus, the only previous hominids identified in this part of Asia or anywhere outside Africa; the first one was discovered in Java in the late 19th century. But research has found few similarities between the hobbit skeleton and Asian H. erectus.

If the hobbit is a throwback to much earlier hominids, scientists said, reverse evolution would be the most far-fetched explanation. Dr. Jungers, a paleoanthropologist who organized the symposium, said there were no known examples of mammals becoming significantly reduced in size and anatomy as a consequence of reverting to an ancestral form.

“Is it possible?” he asked rhetorically. “If that is the case, it is unprecedented and a tremendous discovery.”

Several scientists think the answer to hobbit ancestry lies deeper in the hominid past. If this species is unlike H. erectus, it presumably descended from even earlier small-bodied migrants out of Africa that preceded erectus into Asia. Just the thought questions conventional wisdom.

Possible candidates include Homo habilis, the first and least known species of the Homo genus. The short, small-brained habilis might have emerged as early as 2.3 million years ago and lived to co-exist with the brainier, long-limbed H. erectus. At present, erectus fossils, found in the republic of Georgia and dated at 1.8 million to 1.7 million years ago, are the earliest well-established evidence for hominids outside Africa.

If hobbits resemble habilis in some respects, scientists said, it indicates that habilis or something like it possibly left Africa earlier and became the likely hobbit ancestor.

Another possible ancestor might even have been a pre-Homo species of the Australopithecus genus. The first evidence for stone toolmaking in Africa, at least 2.5 million years ago, is associated with australopithecines. Several scientists called attention to skeletal similarities between hobbits and A. afarensis, the species famously represented by the 3.2-million-year-old Lucy skeleton from Ethiopia.

The suggestion that the H. floresiensis ancestor might have reached Asia a million years before H. erectus left Africa was raised earlier this month at a meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

And then there is the idea, raised again at the symposium, of hominid migrations out of Africa and back. Dr. Jungers advised abandoning the old image of the long-limbed H. erectus striding out of Africa in the first wave of hominids making their way in the world.

“Why think they couldn’t have done it many times, even before erectus?” he said. “Other mammals have migrated in and out of Africa.”

The idea revived speculation that erectus itself might have evolved in Asia from an earlier migrant from Africa, and then found its way back to the land of its ancestors. Similarly, other hominids arriving in distant parts of Asia might have churned out new species, among them the hobbits.

Robert B. Eckhardt of Penn State University, an ardent hobbit skeptic, is unyielding in his opposition to the interpretation that the Flores skull belongs to a previously unrecognized species. He insists that it will prove to be from a modern human stricken with microcephaly or a similar developmental disorder that shrinks the head and brain.

“Convincing others is much more difficult than I thought it would be at the outset,” Dr. Eckhardt acknowledged in an e-mail message, “but increasingly it is becoming evident that what is at stake is not just some sample of specimens, but instead the central paradigm of an entire subfield.”

Susan G. Larson, an anatomist at the Stony Brook School of Medicine who analyzed the non-human properties of the hobbit shoulders, said in an interview that the investigations had entered “a period of wait and see.”

“Someday,” Dr. Larson said, “people may be saying, why was everyone so puzzled back then — it’s plain to see where the little people of Flores came from.”

Last edited by Alex Linder; May 3rd, 2009 at 07:40 PM.
 
Old May 3rd, 2009 #5
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Controversial Hobbit Looks Tiny in Person

Wednesday, April 22, 2009
By Clara Moskowitz


April 21: A Homo floresiensis skeleton cast on display at Stoney Brook University.

The Hobbit looks even smaller in real life.

A skeleton cast of tiny and controversial Homo floresiensis, nicknamed the Hobbit, went on public display for the first time Tuesday at Stony Brook University on Long Island.

The specimen, discovered in 2003 in Indonesia, is hotly debated among scientists. Some claim it represents a new diminutive hominin species, while others argue it is simply a modern human dwarfed by some medical condition.

All agree the original Hobbit was extremely compact compared to us.

"I really had no idea how small it was until now," said Stony Brook undergraduate student Jennifer Kamb, who came to see the skeleton with some other Anthropology majors. "Wow, that skull would fit in my hand."

The cast was unveiled during Stony Brook's 7th annual Human Evolution Symposium, "Hobbits in the Haystack: Homo Floresiensis and Human Evolution."

The tiny skeleton lay down flat next to modern human skull, arm and leg bone casts for comparison, all enclosed in a glass case. The bright display stood on a red cloth-covered table in an atrium in the University's Staller Center for the Arts.

Throughout the day dozens of visitors crowded over the case, almost universally exclaiming on the skeleton's undersized stature next to the human bones. Many people, especially scientists from other institutions, made the trip to see the cast during its one-day showcase. At the end of the symposium the cast was packed up to be shipped back to Indonesia.

"This is the first time the bones have been displayed. It's an honor for Stony Brook," undergraduate student Anna Szczepanek said.

"It's smaller than I imaged it to be," said Stony Brook anthropology graduate student Katie Slivensky. "It's neat to see everything laid out. I remember the extreme shock and surprise when [the discovery] was first announced. It's great to see it come this far."

Homo floresiensis lived on the Indonesian island of Flores until about 17,000 years ago — relatively recently on the timescale of human evolution. It apparently made stone tools, lived in caves, and walked upright. There is some evidence that it may have hunted and used fire.

Yet its anatomy seems to be primitive. Many Homo floresiensis features, such as the shoulder, wrist, jaw and teeth, more closely resemble earlier hominin species such as Australopithecus afarensis ("Lucy") than modern humans.

"It's kind of the single most fascinating fossil species because it's so new and so surprising. It's something that's not quite been figured out," said Nick Blegen, a graduate student studying archaeology at the University of Connecticut who traveled to see the skeleton with his advisor and some other students.

"When you hear something is small, it's hard to picture it, but seeing it you get a sense of what the anatomy was like," he said.

The Hobbit probably stood around 3 feet 5 inches (104 centimeters) tall, and weighed between 66 and 77 pounds.

The new cast was created by making a 3-D CT (computed tomography) scan of the fossilized skeleton. The original fossils are still in Indonesia.

Many experts who spoke at the day-long symposium argued that the evidence points toward Hobbits being a species of their own, rather than sick humans.

Florida State University anthropologist Dean Falk described a study in which she compared the size and shape of the Homo floresiensis brain (based on scans of the skull) to that of modern humans, chimpanzees, the early hominin species Homo erectus, and humans with a disorder called microcephaly, which has been suggested as an explanation for the Hobbit's small stature. She found the Hobbit brain most closely resembles Homo erectus, and is least like the brain with microcephaly.

"In our view we dispensed at that point with the microcelpahy hypothesis," she said. "It's not just that their brains are small; they're differently shaped. It's its own species."

There are no known pathologies that can account for all the anatomy features seen in Homo floresiensis, Washington University anthropologist Charles Hildebolt said.

Famous Stony Brook anthropologist Richard Leakey, who convened the symposium, said he was swayed, though not convinced, by the evidence presented Tuesday.

"I conclude this seminar with a far greater degree of persuasion than I came in with," he said. "I think the possibility of it being a new species has been greatly strengthened."

The perplexing fossils have grabbed the attention of many non-anthropologists who love a good scientific debate.

"I'd been reading about the Hobbits in [the journals] Science and Nature and trying to follow the arguments," said Gail Habicht, a research administrator and former immunologist at Stony Brook who came over to hear the lectures and see the cast. "This was an opportunity to have it explained to me. I certainly have seen pictures but I had no idea how little she is."

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,517474,00.html
 
Old May 3rd, 2009 #6
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I've been following this whole story for a while now and the part that amazes me is the brain size vs the tool usage. The brain case of these midget homo erectus is as small as a chimps, yet they had tools, made fire and hunted micro mammoths that lived on the same island as them. Undoubtedly niggers could learn much from them.
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Old May 3rd, 2009 #7
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Originally Posted by Mark Faust View Post
I've been following this whole story for a while now and the part that amazes me is the brain size vs the tool usage. The brain case of these midget homo erectus is as small as a chimps, yet they had tools, made fire and hunted micro mammoths that lived on the same island as them. Undoubtedly niggers could learn much from them.
Termites are more impressive than niggers, compare a termite mound to a mud hut. The mound is a city, the hut is just a pile of cow shit.
 
Old April 14th, 2010 #8
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Originally Posted by Mark Faust View Post
I've been following this whole story for a while now and the part that amazes me is the brain size vs the tool usage.
Whales have bigger brains than we do but I don't recall seeing them use tools.
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Old April 14th, 2010 #9
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'Hobbit' island's deeper history
By Jonathan Amos
Science correspondent, BBC News
Page last updated at 11:10 GMT, Thursday, 18 March 2010

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8574037.stm

Long before a 'hobbit' species of human lived on Indonesia's Flores island, other human-like creatures colonised the area. That much was clear.

But scientists have now been able to date their presence to at least one million years ago - some 120,000 years earlier than previously recognised.

The team reports the discovery of these humans' tools in the journal Nature.

The group says the finds bring a new dimension to our understanding of the history of Flores.

Lead author Adam Brumm told BBC News that the location and circumstances of the tools' preservation meant human occupation of the island could extend deep into the past.

"What's really exciting about this is that we effectively have no idea how long hominids have been on Flores," the University of Wollongong, Australia, said.

The remains of the hobbit, known to science as Homo floresiensis, were discovered five years ago at Liang Bua cave.

The diminutive creature's unearthing was a sensation because it indicated a separate human species was living alongside us just 18,000 years ago.

Flores has witnessed intensive paleontological investigation ever since.

The famous H. floresiensis cave is located in the west of the island. The new discoveries come from the Soa Basin, an area in central-west Flores.

A dig site there, known as Mata Menge, had already revealed tools dated to 880,000 years ago. Now, just 500m away but much deeper in the sediments, an international team has identified even older artefacts.

The site, referred to as Wolo Sege, has yielded more than 40 stone flakes. These were hand tools, probably used to butcher meat among other tasks.

Many show evidence of being swept along in a stream before being laid down. Critically, however, their burial is capped by a layer of volcanic ash that has been accurately dated to just over one million years ago.

The scientists can say nothing about who used these tools. There is an insufficient number at this stage to assess which culture produced them. But their mere discovery raises some interesting issues.

For example, the Mata Menge discoveries are associated with the disappearance in the deposition record of a number of animal species, such as a pygmy elephant and a giant tortoise. The conclusion that had been drawn from their extinction was that human hunters arriving on the island had hunted them out of existence.

But the Wolo Sege findings put a new perspective on this story because they show humans must have been living side by side with the animals for at least 120,000 years.

Brumm and colleagues tell Nature that it may be difficult to find artefacts in the Soa Basin that are older than the Wolo Sege flakes. The reason is that the tools were lying just on top of what is the rock base in the area (the flank of a volcano).

"Anything inside that bedrock, or within any layers we identify in the bedrock, if they contain stone tools they must be at least 1.86 million years old," said Dr Brumm.

"So, a priority for further research this year is to do a more intensive survey throughout the basin and follow up these bedrock outcrops."

The notion that Flores may have a very deep history of occupation will feed into the debate over H. floresiensis' origins.

Many scientists believe the creature evolved from a much larger-bodied species, Homo erectus, that became isolated and shrunk over time. Others point to features in the hobbit's body - such as the length its feet to the shape of its shoulder girdle - that are very primitive and not what one would expect in dwarfed H. erectus.

These researchers have put forward the idea that H. floresiensis may have evolved from more archaic creatures that left Africa to colonise Asia even before erectus.

"Our discovery at Wolo Sege will certainly open the door to this contentious theory," said Dr Brumm.
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Old April 15th, 2010 #11
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The diminutive creature's unearthing was a sensation because it indicated a separate human species was living alongside us just 18,000 years ago.
Truth is stranger than fiction, eh?

Maybe all those stories of elves, dwarves, and hobbits in our folklore have some basis in fact after all.
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Old February 8th, 2014 #12
grail
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grail
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According to Lloyd Pye these small hominids never went extinct.....Because the
Indonesian sasquatch is this creature....There have been many sightings of
these small hair covered little people in Indonesia...{deep in the jungles}

 
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