Refutation of Palau hobbits published

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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
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Palau skeletons and Homo floresiensis on National Public Radio

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The National Public Radio’s Science Friday programme has a 12-minute interview with Lee Berger, the principal investigator of the Palau skeletons. Find out what this find means for the homo floresiensis debate and for our understanding of humankind in general.


photo credit: Rosino

Discovery Casts Doubt on ‘Hobbit’ Theory
NPR, 14 March 2008
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More "Hobbits" found, in Micronesia now

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Following the suggestion from last week’s controversial paper about the nature of the Flores Hobbits comes a new discovery that may argue that the Hobbits are just really small humans. Fossil remains found in the Micronesian island of Palau have displayed some similarities to the so-called homo floresiensis fossils found in 2004. The open-access study was published in the Public Library of Science journal, PLoS ONE. There’s apparently a National Geographic documentary about the skeletons to be released on March 17, but I don’t think it’ll be out in Asia.


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Small-Bodied Humans from Palau, Micronesia
Lee R. Berger, Steven E. Churchill, Bonita De Klerk, Rhonda L. Quinn

Abstract:
Newly discovered fossil assemblages of small bodied Homo sapiens from Palau, Micronesia possess characters thought to be taxonomically primitive for the genus Homo.
Background

Recent surface collection and test excavation in limestone caves in the rock islands of Palau, Micronesia, has produced a sizeable sample of human skeletal remains dating roughly between 940-2890 cal ybp.

Principle Findings

Preliminary analysis indicates that this material is important for two reasons. First, individuals from the older time horizons are small in body size even relative to “pygmoid” populations from Southeast Asia and Indonesia, and thus may represent a marked case of human insular dwarfism. Second, while possessing a number of derived features that align them with Homo sapiens, the human remains from Palau also exhibit several skeletal traits that are considered to be primitive for the genus Homo.

Significance

These features may be previously unrecognized developmental correlates of small body size and, if so, they may have important implications for interpreting the taxonomic affinities of fossil specimens of Homo.
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