Refutation of Palau hobbits published

Well, it had to happen soon enough. After the controversial discovery of similar hobbit-like skeletons from Micronesian Palau, a joint University of Oregon, North Carolina State Univerisity and Australian National University study published in PLOSone says that these skeleton weren’t hobbits but normal humans.

Small Scattered Fragments Do Not a Dwarf Make: Biological and Archaeological Data Indicate that Prehistoric Inhabitants of Palau Were Normal Sized
PLOSOne, 27 August 2008

Bone Parts Don’t Add Up To Conclusion Of Hobbit-like Palauan Dwarfs
ScienceDaily, 27 August 2008

Bone parts don’t add up to conclusion of Palauan dwarfs
EurekaAlerts, 26 August 2008

Little Big People
Science News, 26 August 2008

Human hobbits ‘a myth’

inthenews, 27 August 2008

Skeletal evidence, Nelson said, reveals three main areas where Berger’s conclusions were flawed:

  • Berger, as his primary evidence of the existence of small stature humans, pointed to fragments of femoral heads, the round balls atop the body’s longest bone that connects it to the hip. Nelson concurs that these heads were often small compared to today’s humans but that they connected femurs of modern-sized individuals — with females averaging about 5-foot, 1-inch in height — who were slightly built and subsisted off available food sources. At least two femoral heads analyzed by Nelson from full skeletons were smaller than those cited by Berger. Having an intact femur provides a usually accurate starting point for extrapolating body height.
  • Berger argued that his fragmentary cranial evidence indicated brow ridges common to very ancient human foreheads (picture those of Neanderthals). Nelson and colleagues argue that all cranial measurements they analyzed point to modern-sized heads. They also noted that limestone dissolved in water — very common to the island chain’s karst environment — running across bodies buried at or just below the surface will create the easily misinterpreted lumpy appearance on brow ridges.
  • Berger said teeth and orthodontia fragments suggested megadontism — abnormally large teeth, a condition common in the pre-modern, small-bodied hominins that he often studies. Nelson says that large teeth were indeed common in early Palauans but simply reflected a hunter-gatherer society. Smaller teeth evolved as cultures turned to agriculture, he said. “Had [Berger’s team] compared their scant dental metric data with those of other regions in the Pacific, or elsewhere in the world, they would have seen that large teeth are not uncommon in early peoples of these regions,” Nelson and colleagues wrote.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

One thought on “Refutation of Palau hobbits published”

  1. Vart tog DNA analysen av tänderna vägen det torde väl lätt avslöja vad som är riktigt

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