via New Scientist, 30 August 2023: We’re coming up to the 20th anniversary of the discovery of Homo floresiensis. This article by Paige Madison is behind a paywall, but you should definitely check out her excellent paper Tug-of-War: Bones and Stones as Scientific Objects in Postcolonial Indonesia which contextualises the controversy over the bones.
The find was described as “the most significant discovery concerning our own genus in my lifetime” by one researcher, and justifiably so. H. floresiensis promised to overturn established ideas about the shape of our prehistoric family tree and the importance of big brains for the success of ancient humans. As importantly, the bones showed that south-east Asia had been a hotbed of ancient human evolution.
You might expect that Indonesian researchers would have been as excited as anyone by the discovery on their doorstep. You would be wrong. After H. floresiensis was announced to the world, a leading Indonesian archaeologist condemned the international reporting of the discovery as “unethical”. A few days later, he surprised his colleagues by helping another Indonesian researcher take possession of the bones. When they were returned several months later, some were damaged beyond repair.