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

FSU anthropologist confirms 'Hobbit' indeed a separate species

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30 January 2007 (Eureka Alerts, BBC) – A new development in the Hobbit debate, paleoneurologist Dean Falk from Florida State University concluded that the Hobbit is indeed a new species, rather than a human with microcephaly. This conclusion was made by making comparisons of the brain casts between human, microcephalic and hobbit specimens.

BBC, 30 Jan 2007
Comparisons between a microcephalic (left) and the Hobbit (right)
(Image: Kirk E. Smith, Electronic Radiology Laboratory, Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology)

FSU anthropologist confirms ‘Hobbit’ indeed a separate species

After the skeletal remains of an 18,000-year-old, Hobbit-sized human were discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003, some scientists thought that the specimen must have been a pygmy or a microcephalic — a human with an abnormally small skull.

Not so, said Dean Falk, a world-renowned paleoneurologist and chair of Florida State University’s anthropology department, who along with an international team of experts created detailed maps of imprints left on the ancient hominid’s braincase and concluded that the so-called Hobbit was actually a new species closely related to Homo sapiens.

Now after further study, Falk is absolutely convinced that her team was right and that the species cataloged as LB1, Homo floresiensis, is definitely not a human born with microcephalia — a somewhat rare pathological condition that still occurs today. Usually the result of a double-recessive gene, the condition is characterized by a small head and accompanied by some mental retardation.

In this latest study, the researchers compared 3-D, computer-generated reconstructions of nine microcephalic modern human brains and 10 normal modern human brains. They found that certain shape features completely separate the two groups and that Hobbit classifies with normal humans rather than microcephalic humans in these features. In other ways, however, Hobbit’s brain is unique, which is consistent with its attribution to a new species.

Comparison of two areas in the frontal lobe, the temporal lobe and the back of the brain show the Hobbit brain is nothing like a microcephalic’s and is advanced in a way that is different from living humans. In fact, the LB1 brain was the “antithesis” of the microcephalic brain, according to Falk, a finding the researchers hope puts this part of the Hobbit controversy to rest.


Related Books:
Little People And a Lost World: An Anthropological Mystery by L. Goldenberg