Saturday, December 22, 2007

Update on The 'Hobbit'

New Light Shed On The 'Hobbit'

ScienceDaily (Sep. 25, 2007) — 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.

The team turned its research focus to the most complete of the 12 skeletons discovered and specifically toward three little bones from the hobbit's left wrist. The research asserts that modern humans and our closest fossil relatives, the Neandertals, have a very differently shaped wrist in comparison to living great apes, older fossil hominins like Australopithecus (e.g., "Lucy") and even the earliest members of the genus Homo (e.g., Homo habilis, the "handy-man").

But the hobbit's wrist is basically indistinguishable from an African ape or early hominin-like wrist--nothing at all like that seen in modern humans and Neandertals.

The lead author of the study, Matt Tocheri, a paleoanthropologist in the Smithsonian's Human Origins Program at the National Museum of Natural History, was completely surprised when he first saw casts of the hobbit's wrist bones. "Up until then, I had no definitive opinion regarding the hobbit debates," said Tocheri. "But these hobbit wrist bones do not look anything like those of modern humans. They're not even close!"

The research is being published in the Sept. 21 issue of Science.

The other authors of the paper are Susan Larson (Stony Brook University, New York); Thomas Sutikna, Jatmiko, E. Wahyu Saptomo, Rokus Awe Due and Tony Djubiantono (National Research and Development Centre for Archaeology, Indonesia); Michael Morwood (University of Wollongong, Australia); and William Jungers (Stony Brook University, New York).

Various aspects of this research were funded in part by the U.S. National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Leakey Foundation, the Australian Research Council, the National Geographic Society, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Smithsonian's Fellowship Program and the Smithsonian's Human Origins Program.



New Light Shed On The 'Hobbit'

2 comments:

Reboots DaMachina said...

National Geographic has a good show on this topic too.

Erik said...

The discovery of Homo floresiensis could be one of the great stories in human evolution and hopefully we’ll know more once the original research team gets back to the caves in Flores and to the other islands. Hard to believe, but their work was halted by the Indonesian government at one point further adding fuel to this mess. You have to wonder what Jacob's role was in stopping the Australian team's work and how much of his motivation was due to professional jealousy. Unfortunately, with Dr. Jacob’s recent death we may never know the entire story regarding his true motivations.

Of course, I have a vested interest in this discovery, having written a speculative fiction novel called Flores Girl: The Children God Forgot on the recent fossil find. If you are interested, there is more on this ongoing controversy about Homo floresiensis at www.floresgirl.com or catch the free Flores Girl podcast at Podiobooks.com.

Erik John Bertel