Cranial analysis of hobbit suggests no relation to modern humans

No Comments

A new paper published in the Journal of Human Evolution compares the cranial structures of modern humans and homo florsiensis and concludes that the two species are not related.

What do cranial bones of LB1 tell us about Homo floresiensis?
Journal of Human Evolution, doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2015.12.008

‘Hobbits’, Homo Floresiensis Were Another Species Not Deformed Humans,New Study
National Daily Press, 18 Feb 2016

Homo Floresiensis or ‘Hobbits’ Found on Flores Island were Not Modern Humans, Study Reveals
BiztekMojo, 16 Feb 2016

Cranial vault thickness (CVT) of Liang Bua 1, the specimen that is proposed to be the holotype of Homo floresiensis, has not yet been described in detail and compared with samples of fossil hominins, anatomically modern humans or microcephalic skulls. In addition, a complete description from a forensic and pathological point of view has not yet been carried out. It is important to evaluate scientifically if features related to CVT bring new information concerning the possible pathological status of LB1, and if it helps to recognize affinities with any hominin species and particularly if the specimen could belong to the species Homo sapiens.

Medical examination of the skull based on a micro-CT examination clearly brings to light the presence of a sincipital T (a non-metrical variant of normal anatomy), a scar from an old frontal trauma without any evident functional consequence, and a severe bilateral hyperostosis frontalis interna that may have modified the anterior morphology of the endocranium of LB1. We also show that LB1 displays characteristics, related to the distribution of bone thickness and arrangements of cranial structures, that are plesiomorphic traits for hominins, at least for Homo erectus s.l. relative to Homo neanderthalensis and H. sapiens. All the microcephalic skulls analyzed here share the derived condition of anatomically modern H. sapiens. Cranial vault thickness does not help to clarify the definition of the species H. floresiensis but it also does not support an attribution of LB1 to H. sapiens. We conclude that there is no support for the attribution of LB1 to H. sapiens as there is no evidence of systemic pathology and because it does not have any of the apomorphic traits of our species.

Article here.

East Asia in the annals of human evolution

No Comments

Darren Curnoe argues that recent archaeological finds from East Asia and Southeast Asia hint at fundamental changes in our understanding of human evolution.

East Asia makes a comeback in the human evolution stakes
The Conversation, 22 January 2016

Archaeological discoveries in East Asia over the last decade or so have dramatically rewritten our understanding of human evolution.

But the implications don’t sit easily with many scholars internationally who continue to see Europe and Africa as the heartland of human origins.

For more than 150 years our understanding of human evolution has been largely shaped by the discoveries made in Europe and parts of Africa, like the caves near Johannesburg and the Great Rift Valley on the east of the continent.

Full story here.

Stone tools push the human occupation of Sulawesi back by 60,000 years

No Comments
Stone tools dating to 118,000 years from Sulawesi. Source: ABC News 20160114

The discovery of stone tools from Sulawesi date to 118,000 years ago – possibly by the so-called hobbits – predate what is thought to be the earliest arrival of humans into Southeast Asia 50,000 – 60,000 years ago.

Stone tools dating to 118,000 years from Sulawesi. Source: ABC News 20160114

Stone tools dating to 118,000 years from Sulawesi. Source: ABC News 20160114

Earliest hominin occupation of Sulawesi, Indonesia
Gerrit D. van den Bergh, Bo Li, Adam Brumm, Rainer Grün, Dida Yurnaldi, Mark W. Moore, Iwan Kurniawan, Ruly Setiawan, Fachroel Aziz, Richard G. Roberts, Suyono, Michael Storey, Erick Setiabudi & Michael J. Morwood
Nature, doi:10.1038/nature16448

A group of mysterious humans left these tools in Indonesia over 118,000 years ago
Ars Technica, 15 January 2016

Stone tools found on Sulawesi in Indonesia ‘made by ancient humans at least 118,000 years ago
ABC News, 14 January 2016

‘Hobbit’ gets a neighbor: Stone tools hint at archaic human presence
CS Monitor, 14 January 2016

Ancient tools show how mysterious ‘Hobbit’ occupied Indonesian island
Reuters, via Ottowa Sun, 13 January 2016

Sulawesi is the largest and oldest island within Wallacea, a vast zone of oceanic islands separating continental Asia from the Pleistocene landmass of Australia and Papua (Sahul). By one million years ago an unknown hominin lineage had colonized Flores immediately to the south1, and by about 50 thousand years ago, modern humans (Homo sapiens) had crossed to Sahul2, 3. On the basis of position, oceanic currents and biogeographical context, Sulawesi probably played a pivotal part in these dispersals4. Uranium-series dating of speleothem deposits associated with rock art in the limestone karst region of Maros in southwest Sulawesi has revealed that humans were living on the island at least 40 thousand years ago (ref. 5). Here we report new excavations at Talepu in the Walanae Basin northeast of Maros, where in situ stone artefacts associated with fossil remains of megafauna (Bubalus sp., Stegodon and Celebochoerus) have been recovered from stratified deposits that accumulated from before 200 thousand years ago until about 100 thousand years ago. Our findings suggest that Sulawesi, like Flores, was host to a long-established population of archaic hominins, the ancestral origins and taxonomic status of which remain elusive.

Article can be found here.

Teeth study of H. floresiensis unlike any other, suggests new species

No Comments

A new study on the tooth morphology of Homo floresiensis suggests that they may be not be a group deformed modern humans, and may also support the theory that the hobbits were derived from Homo erectus undergoing island dwarfism.

Teeth of Homo floresiensis. Source: PLOS One DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0141614

Teeth of Homo floresiensis. Source: PLOS One DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0141614

Hobbits Were a Separate Species, Ancient Chompers Show
Live Science, 18 November 2015

Fossils Reveal That Ancient Hobbits Were A Separate Species
IFL Science, 19 November 2015

“Hobbit” Teeth Analyzed
Archaeology, 20 November 015

Unique Dental Morphology of Homo floresiensis and Its Evolutionary Implications
Kaifu et al, PLOS One
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0141614

Homo floresiensis is an extinct, diminutive hominin species discovered in the Late Pleistocene deposits of Liang Bua cave, Flores, eastern Indonesia. The nature and evolutionary origins of H. floresiensis’ unique physical characters have been intensively debated. Based on extensive comparisons using linear metric analyses, crown contour analyses, and other trait-by-trait morphological comparisons, we report here that the dental remains from multiple individuals indicate that H. floresiensis had primitive canine-premolar and advanced molar morphologies, a combination of dental traits unknown in any other hominin species. The primitive aspects are comparable to H. erectus from the Early Pleistocene, whereas some of the molar morphologies are more progressive even compared to those of modern humans. This evidence contradicts the earlier claim of an entirely modern human-like dental morphology of H. floresiensis, while at the same time does not support the hypothesis that H. floresiensis originated from a much older H. habilis or Australopithecus-like small-brained hominin species currently unknown in the Asian fossil record. These results are however consistent with the alternative hypothesis that H. floresiensis derived from an earlier Asian Homo erectus population and experienced substantial body and brain size dwarfism in an isolated insular setting. The dentition of H. floresiensis is not a simple, scaled-down version of earlier hominins.

The full paper can be downloaded on PLOS One.

Liang Bua popular with tourists seeking the ‘hobbit’

No Comments
Liang Bua. Source: Pos Kupang 20150510

The Liang Bua site in Flores has seen a jump in popularity by foreign tourists due to the discovery of Homo floresiensis, but the site itself is not set up to receive tourists.

Liang Bua. Source: Pos Kupang 20150510

Liang Bua. Source: Pos Kupang 20150510

Turis Asing Dominasi ke Liangbua
Pos Kupang, 10 May 2015
Article is in Bahasa Indonesia

Regency to boost hobbit tourism
Jakarta Post, 11 May 2015

Situs Liang Bua, lokasi ditemukankan tulang manusia purba Flores (Homo Floresiensis) oleh tim penggali dari Arkelogi Indonesia dan asing tanggal 6 September 2003 menyedot perhatian wisatawan asing dari Eropa.

Kunjungan turis asing dari Benua Eropa dari kaum peneliti atau peminat khusus mendominasi kedatangan ke situs yang mendadak terkenal pasca penemuan manusia purba Flores.

Full story here.

New paper argues against claims of Hobbit Down Syndrome theory

No Comments
Skull of LB1. Source: The Conversation 20150210

A new paper in PNAS tears down the arguments made last year in the same journal about the Hobbit being a human with Down Syndrome. The arguments centre around the attributes of LB1 and LB6’s chins. The Conversation piece by the same authors breaks it down nicely.

Skull of LB1. Source: The Conversation 20150210

Skull of LB1. Source: The Conversation 20150210

Down syndrome theory on Hobbit species doesn’t hold to scrutiny
The Conversation, 10 February 2015

Mandibular evidence supports Homo floresiensis as a distinct species
Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1418997112

Henneberg et al. (1) and Eckhardt et al. (2) present another pathology-based alternative to the hypothesis that the “hobbit” fossils from Liang Bua, Indonesia, represent a distinct hominin species, Homo floresiensis. They contend that the Liang Bua specimens are the remains of small-bodied humans and that the noteworthy features of the most complete specimen, LB1, are a consequence of Down syndrome (DS). Here, we show that the available mandibular evidence does not support these claims.

Absence of chins in the two mandibles recovered at Liang Bua, LB1 and LB6, is a key issue (1, 3). That these specimens lack chins has been argued to preclude their attribution to Homo sapiens, because a chin is widely accepted to be a defining characteristic of our species (3). Henneberg et al. reject this argument on the grounds that a chin is often absent in living Australo-Melanesians. However, the evidence they present does not support their assertion regarding Australo-Melanesian mandibular morphology. One of two studies they cite has not been peer reviewed (the publication is just a conference abstract), whereas the other one has been severely criticized (4). Henneberg et al. also imply that a mandible from Roonka, Australia, supports their claim, but a CT scan of this specimen shows that it has a positive chin (Fig. 1). Thus, there is no reason to believe that living Australo-Melanesians often lack chins and therefore no reason to overturn Brown and Tomoko’s (3) assessment that the absence of chins in LB1 and LB6 precludes their attribution to H. sapiens.

The link to the paper here.

Criticisms over the hobbit-Down Syndrome paper

No Comments

There seems to be more than meets the eye with the latest paper in PNAS on the ‘hobbit’ as a person with Down syndrome. The Guardian has a story on the criticism and reactions to this paper.

Homo floresiensis

Homo floresiensis: scientists clash over claims ‘hobbit man’ was modern human with Down’s syndrome
The Guardian, 17 August 2014
Read More

More Hobbit stories

No Comments

Two articles on the New York Times and the Daily Mail about the recent papers in PNAS suggesting that the ‘Hobbit’ is person with Down syndrome and not a new species.

LB1 skull

A New Explanation for ‘New’ Man
New York Times, 04 August 2014

The oldest case of Down’s syndrome? 15,000-year-old ‘Flores man’ bones are not evidence of a new human species, study reveals
Daily Mail, 05 August 2014
Read More