Sunday, March 16, 2008

Were Fossil 'Hobbits' Just Little Humans?

The discovery of diminutive human fossils in the Pacific island nation of Palau has thrown more fuel on an already raging scientific controversy over the "hobbit" fossils discovered several years ago.

The Flores fossils appeared to come from a separate and previously unknown species of human -- one that stood 3 feet tall, made complex tools and died out just 13,000 years ago. The discoverers dubbed these newfound cousins Homo floresiensis, and a public enthralled by visions of diminutive Komodo-dragon hunters called them hobbits.

But other scientists said H. floresiensis was more wishful thinking than solid science, based on mismatched bones and just a single half-complete skeleton. The hobbits' supposedly unique features, said skeptics, were either common to local pygmies or -- as underscored by their unprecedented tiny brains -- a physical deformity.

The newly discovered Palau skeletons possess many H. floresiensis features, but have normal-sized brains -- and that, say skeptics, is further evidence that the hobbits were deformed local pygmies. Others call the findings shoddy and irrelevant. It's impossible to know which side is right, but at least one thing is clear: The controversy isn't about to end.

Were Fossil 'Hobbits' Just Little Humans?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As Dr. Junger from SUNY Stony Brook said this is “is really much ado about nothing.”
I guess the fact that none of the bones found match the hobbits really doesn’t matter. After all, the frontal cranium looks almost as high as a human’s but hey Dr. Berger says they are the same species as the hobbit. Damn, can’t we complete a dig before we report the findings nowadays?

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