The Hobbit’s dental work

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In an interesting twist to the hotly-debated Hobbit saga, a new book claims that the Hobbit remains appear to have had some dental work on them, overturning the supposed antiquity of the bones and thus, the new species theory.

Did the Flores Hobbit Have a Root Canal?
Scientific American, 18 April 2008

Hobbit ‘had been to dentist’
The Australian, 19 April 2008

The tooth, and nothing but
The Australian, 19 April 2008
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Newsweek on the Hobbit

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20 September 2007 (Newsweek) – Newsweek magazine features an interview with Matthew Tocheri, one of the investigators behind the Hobbit wrist study.

‘Tip of the Iceberg’
A new study of a skeleton of a member of a race of three-foot-tall ‘hobbits’ who lived 12,000 years ago in Indonesia shows that they were a species of human—and that the evolutionary path to Homo sapiens has been tortuous indeed.
by Jessica Bennett

It was an astonishing discovery: the skeletal remains of a new human species that lived for eons on a remote island while man colonized the rest of the planet. Back when it was first discovered in 2003, on the tiny Indonesian island of Flores, the three-foot-tall adult female skeleton was dubbed “the hobbit,” because she—and the 11 other skeletal remains that were found like her—bore more of a resemblance to the Tolkien fantasy characters than to modern humans. The hobbit’s discovery presented evidence that as recently as 12,000 years ago another species of human may have roamed the earth and, more startling, that our evolutionary history was a lot more complex than previously thought. Many scientists were more skeptical—the bones, they said, most likely belonged to a diminutive human with physical defects: a freak.

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The Primitive Wrist of Homo floresiensis and Its Implications for Hominin Evolution

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21 September 2007 (Science Magazine) – And finally, the abstract of the homo floresiensis wrist study from Science Magazine. Subscription required for full access.

The Primitive Wrist of Homo floresiensis and Its Implications for Hominin Evolution
Matthew W. Tocheri, Caley M. Orr, Susan G. Larson, Thomas Sutikna, Jatmiko, E. Wahyu Saptomo, Rokus Awe Due, Tony Djubiantono, Michael J. Morwood, William L. Jungers

Whether the Late Pleistocene hominin fossils from Flores, Indonesia, represent a new species, Homo floresiensis, or pathological modern humans has been debated. Analysis of three wrist bones from the holotype specimen (LB1) shows that it retains wrist morphology that is primitive for the African ape-human clade. In contrast, Neandertals and modern humans share derived wrist morphology that forms during embryogenesis, which diminishes the probability that pathology could result in the normal primitive state. This evidence indicates that LB1 is not a modern human with an undiagnosed pathology or growth defect; rather, it represents a species descended from a hominin ancestor that branched off before the origin of the clade that includes modern humans, Neandertals, and their last common ancestor.

The wrist is the 'smoking gun'

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21 September 2007 (ABC News in Science) – The proof is all in the wrist! Dr Matthew Tocheri, the lead researcher in the Hobbit wrist study explains why the wrist is the most compelling proof that our Flores hobbit is really a new species. But will this be the last we hear of the issue? I doubt it.

Hobbit evidence will silence critics, scientist says
David Mark

Scientists say they have proof the so-called ‘hobbit’ from the Indonesian island of Flores is a new species, adding that the evidentiary smoking gun is all in the wrist.

The Smithsonian Institution’s Dr Matthew Tocheri, based in Washington, is the lead author of the paper published in the journal Science.

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Wrist gives hobbit theory the flick

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21 September 2007 (ABC News in Science) – Here’s a news piece about the wrist study which sums up the news quite nicely in layman terms. There’s also a dissenting opinion about the study that’s also food for thought.

Wrist gives hobbit theory the flick
Anna Salleh

The hobbit had wrists more like those of non-human apes than those of modern humans, according to researchers who say their findings are more evidence that Homo floresiensis is a new species.

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Wrist bone study adds to Hobbit controversy

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20 September 2007 (Smithsonian Institution) – A new study on the wrist bones recovered from the homo floresiensis assembly adds extra weight to our Hobbit from Flores being an entirely new species rather than a sick, deformed human. There are a few other stories popping up today so stay tuned for more insights! It’s a really busy day at work, so hopefully I can post them all up by the end of the day.

Homo Floresiensis by SBishop
Homo Floresiensis skull, creative commons image by SBishop

New Research Sheds Light on “Hobbit” Smithsonian-led Study Published in Science

An international team of researchers led by the Smithsonian Institution has completed a new study on Homo floresiensis, commonly referred to as the “hobbit,” a 3-foot-tall, 18,000-year-old hominin skeleton, discovered four years ago on the Indonesian island of Flores. This study offers one of the most striking confirmations of the original interpretation of the hobbit as an island remnant of one of the oldest human migrations to Asia. The research is being published in the Sept. 21 issue of Science.

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New book on the Flores hominid

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23 May 2007 (stuff.co.nz) – A book review on the latest book about the Flores Hominid, also nicknamed the Hobbit, written by Mike Morwood, one of the archaeologists who discovered the remarkable find in 2003.

The discovery of the Hobbit

The Discovery of the Hobbit – Mike Morwood and Penny Van Oosterzee

Long after homo sapiens invented art, porn and sailing, another kind of human scampered about in Indonesian forests.

We know this because a team led by one of the writers of this fascinating book, Australian archaeologist Mike Morwood, discovered the creature’s skeleton in 2003, in a cave on the remote island of Flores.

Since then, bones belonging to at least eight more individuals have been found, ranging in age from 95,000 to 12,000 years old. Our own species has been alive for at least 100,000 years, in case you were wondering.

This theory has not gone away, despite Morwood’s team finding more tiny individuals separated widely in time. He is not the only one to point out that it seems unlikely a race of imbeciles could survive so long on an island swarming with meat-eating lizards three times bigger than they were, although he needs to find another skull to prove his point.

A few of the proponents of the microcephalic theory have axes to grind and Jacob is accused, sensationally, of grabbing then damaging the hobbits’ bones. The fog of war has been compounded by Indonesian v Australian politico- cultural complexities and newspapers that have given equal time to every theory, whether it met the test of peer review or not.

This book is timely. It clarifies events which have been glossed over in other media, including damage done to the only extant hobbit skull, a jawbone and a pelvis. Although neither Morwood nor fellow writer Penny Van Oosterzee could be confused with Tolstoy, the book is intelligent, pacey and evocative.

Read the full review of The Discovery of the Hobbit here.

Some other books about the Flores hominid you might be interested in:
A New Human: The Startling Discovery and Strange Story of the “Hobbits” of Flores, Indonesia by M. Morwood and P. van Oosterzee
Little People And a Lost World: An Anthropological Mystery by L. Goldenberg

After the crocodile, comes a mammoth

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28 April 2007 (Jakarta Post) – In the heels of the fossil crocodile find near the Sangiran site, a fossil of a mammoth is found.

Mammoth fossil found in C. Java

A resident has discovered fossilized mammoth bones near where the fossil of a prehistoric crocodile was discovered at the Sangiran excavation site on April 20.

Gunawan, a staff member at the Sangiran Agency for the Preservation of Ancient Sites, said this latest discovery took place April 22, but was only reported to his office four days later.

“The mammoth fossil is believed to be from the same era as the crocodile found earlier,” Gunawan said Friday.

Officials earlier said the crocodile fossil was believed to come from the Middle Pleistocene era, about 800,000 years ago.

According to Gunawan, the fossilized mammoth (Stegodon trigonocephalus) was found by Daryanto, a resident of Dayu village in Gondangrejo district, Karanganyar regency.


Related Books:
Ancient History (The Indonesian Heritage Series) by Indonesian Heritage
Prehistoric Indonesia: A reader

Prehistoric croc fossil found in Central Java

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24 April 2007 (Jakarta Post) – The fossil of a prehistoric crocodile has been found in Sangiran, already famous for being the site of the discovery of Java Man.

Prehistoric crocodile fossil found in Sangiran

The fossil of a prehistoric crocodile has been found at the Sangiran site in Sragen, Central Java, by a local resident.

“The first bit (of the fossil) that I found was the teeth of its upper jaw,” Mulyono, 31, told reporters at the Sangiran Fossil Laboratory on Monday.

Mulyono explained that the finding was quite by chance, as he was digging an irrigation gutter in his rice field. “Suddenly, I found the fossil,” Mulyono said. The discovery was made Friday and the excavation was carried out the next day.

On Monday, a number of employees from the Sangiran laboratory were still busy cleaning the fossil, which has a diameter of 49 centimeters and a length of 95 centimeters.

Gunawan, one of the employees, said the fossil was believed to have come from the Middle Pleistocene era, about 1.6 million years ago. “This is still a preliminary estimation, taking into consideration the location of the discovery at a hilly area in Pucung village in Kalijambe district, which has been classified in the Kabuh formation or the Middle Pleistocene era,” he said.

So far there has been no formal statement on how scientists will calculate the age of the fossil. “This is still being studied by archeological experts from the Sangiran Museum,” Gunawan said.


Related Books:
Ancient History (The Indonesian Heritage Series) by Indonesian Heritage
Prehistoric Indonesia: A reader

Old tools shed light on hobbit origins

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1 June 2006 (Nature) – Stone tool finds beside hobbit suggest that they inherited tool-making tradition from homo erectus predecessors.

Nature - 1 June, 2006
Old tools shed light on hobbit origins

The latest twist in the tale suggests that these one-metre-tall hominids, with a brain the size of a grapefruit, were the final members of a tool-making tradition stretching back more than 800,000 years.

… a separate line of evidence points to H. floresiensis as a tool-maker. More than 500 stone blades found on Flores and dated to more than 700,000 years ago seem to have been made in the same way — by striking stones to chip off large flakes — as the more recent blades found with the hobbits.