ABC News: Scientists Find Hobbit-Sized People Remains

by Gerard 8 Replies latest social current

  • Gerard
    Gerard

    http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=198867&page=1

    ABC News

    By Amanda Onion

    Oct. 27, 2004 ?

    Once upon a time, on an isolated island of Indonesia, there lived a colony of little people ? very little people.

    Modern Human

    Not only did anthropologists find the skeletal remains of a hobbit-sized, 30-year-old adult female, in this fairy-tale-like discovery they also uncovered in the same limestone cave the remains of a Komodo dragon, stone tools and a dwarf elephant.

    Subsequent finds of other similarly sized, 3-foot-tall humans with brains the size of grapefruits in a cave on the Indonesian island of Flores suggest these 18,000-year-old specimens weren't a quirk of an ancient hominin, but part of an entire species of miniature people whose existence overlapped with that of modern Homo sapiens.

    "We now have the remains of at least seven hobbit-sized individuals at the cave site, so the 18,000-year-old skeleton cannot be some kind of 'freak' that we just happened to stumble across first," said Bert Roberts, an anthropologist at the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, Australia, and co-author of the study about the find in this week's issue of the journal "Nature."

    Peter Brown, lead researcher of the study and an anthropologist at the University of New England in Armidale, Australia, says that although modern humans had reached Australia by 45,000 years ago, so far there's no evidence suggesting the small species of human and modern humans ever met.

    Still, another author, Mike Morwood, also of the University of New England, says because the two existed in the same general region for nearly 30,000 years, "It is certain that they came face to face on occasion."

    Island Adaptation

    Although the odd little humans likely left no descendants, and therefore no mark on modern human biology, the scientists say this is the first documentation of the entirely new species of hominins that apparently adapted and lived for thousands of years in caves on the isolated island. As for their size, their limited habitat and its hot, humid conditions may have been key factors.

    Brown and the other authors suggest that the newly found species, named Homo floresiensis, arrived on the island of Flores, in Indonesia's Nusa Tenggara region, in the form of Homo erectus, the first large-brained hominin that emerged some 2 million years ago in Africa and Asia.

  • ohiocowboy
    ohiocowboy

    Wonder if they were related to the Oompas???

  • kitties_and_horses_oh_my!
    kitties_and_horses_oh_my!

    And we all thought Lord of the Rings was fiction! Foolish, foolish people... pretty soon they'll prove the Bible is true, too!

  • Satanus
    Satanus

    Lord of the rings is the word of the hobbit god I love it.

    S

  • Badger
    Badger

    Well, at least we now know where the Shire was...

  • Uzzah
    Uzzah

    WHy is it that I find it hard to put much credence in a "scientific" report that alludes to the fictional writings of Tolkien?

    I admit being a fan of Tolkien since I was in Grade 7 but it seems strange to read that the skeletal remains were "hobbit sized". It does seem rather unprofessional, doesn't it?

    I would think most scientists/archaelogists would compare the size to something real and tangible rather than something as speculative as 'hobbit sized.'

    It will be interesting to follow this as the results are verified etc.

    Uzzah

    What's next? We found something "gollum-esque?" The remains were white as Gandalf's beard?

  • funkyderek
    funkyderek
    I admit being a fan of Tolkien since I was in Grade 7 but it seems strange to read that the skeletal remains were "hobbit sized". It does seem rather unprofessional, doesn't it?

    Not really. Hobbits - fictitious though they may be - are a familiar point of reference to most people and are more likely to fire the public imagination than Homo floresiensis. This kind of thing is quite common. For example, the nearly complete skeleton of Australopithicus afarensis discovered by Donald Johansen was nicknamed Lucy after the Beatles' song Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds. It probably started as something of a joke anyway. Paleontologists are allowed to have a sense of humour, and probably get sick of doing "Alas, poor Yorick" jokes.

  • Gerard
    Gerard

    18,000 years old is not old in evolutionary terms. The fact that these pigmy-like people hunted pigmy-like elephants is a cool news headline.

    I have not read their scientific paper, but I assume they are not a species. In evolutionary terms, it is likely that when they settled in this isolated island there their gene pool passed through a "bottle neck", meaning a limited source of gene variation.

    Note that evolution happens at the level of SPECIES, not of individuals.

    Very interesting!

  • Gerard
    Gerard

    Coments from Nature

    http://www.nature.com/news/2004/041025/full/4311029a.html

    The original article:

    Brown P., et al. Nature, 431. 1055 - 1061 (2004). | Article |

    Abstract:

    A new small-bodied hominin from the Late Pleistocene of Flores, Indonesia

    P. BROWN 1 , T. SUTIKNA 2 , M. J. MORWOOD 1 , R. P. SOEJONO 2 , JATMIKO 2 , E. WAYHU SAPTOMO 2 & ROKUS AWE DUE 2

    1 Archaeology & Palaeoanthropology, School of Human & Environmental Studies, University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales 2351, Australia
    2 Indonesian Centre for Archaeology, Jl. Raya Condet Pejaten No. 4, Jakarta 12001, Indonesia

    Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to P.B. (pbrown3@pobox.une.edu.au).

    Currently, it is widely accepted that only one hominin genus, Homo, was present in Pleistocene Asia, represented by two species, Homo erectus and Homo sapiens. Both species are characterized by greater brain size, increased body height and smaller teeth relative to Pliocene Australopithecus in Africa. Here we report the discovery, from the Late Pleistocene of Flores, Indonesia, of an adult hominin with stature and endocranial volume approximating 1 m and 380 cm 3 , respectively?equal to the smallest-known australopithecines. The combination of primitive and derived features assigns this hominin to a new species, Homo floresiensis. The most likely explanation for its existence on Flores is long-term isolation, with subsequent endemic dwarfing, of an ancestral H. erectus population. Importantly, H. floresiensis shows that the genus Homo is morphologically more varied and flexible in its adaptive responses than previously thought.


    © 2004 Nature Publishing Group
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    http://www.nature.com/doifinder/10.1038%2Fnature02999


    The little elephant species was identified as Genus Stegodon:

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