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 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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