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Middle Earth in Indonesia? Fossil “Hobbits” Smash Evolutionary Ring 10/27/2004


Here at s8int.com, we were very tempted to write the headline "Numbskulls Write About Small Skulls", but we're better than that. We know that as time goes by, these little people they found (and that's what they are) will have to be drawn more and more like us- as has happened with "cro magnon" and "neanderthal".

Here, ironically, they've drawn him as a primitive even though they know he lived very recently, conflicting with current human evolutionary theories. On the other hand, the find impacts Christianity and creationism no more than does the existence of present day pygmies.

And speaking of irony, how is it that the artist, Peter Schouten, draws from just a few bones a black skinned "Hobbit" when everyone knows that there were no black people in any of the three "Lord of the Ring" movies? We're just saying...

Click and drag photo to resize.

"Here we go again: another alleged human ancestor fossil that shakes up the evolutionary family tree. No sooner had Nature announced a little 1-meter tall fossil female “hominin” that the discoverers classified as Homo erectus, that the science news media like MSNBC and the BBC flew into action reporting it as “fossil hobbits”.

They seem to have all borrowed National Geographic’s artwork, which appeared so fast they must been tipped off. The drawing by Peter Schouten shows an upright-walking, naked, dark-skinned male with spear and prey over the shoulder.

The trouble with the fossil is that it was dated at only 18,000 years. Having a member of genus Homo so far to the East so late in the timeline is forcing a major revision of the idea that modern humans arrived in Europe much earlier.

“My jaw dropped to my knees” said one researcher upon hearing the date. Homo erectus were long assumed too primitive to have migrated to an island as distant from the mainland as where the seven individual skeletons were found. Yet surprisingly, local natives have legends about “little people” that lived in the jungle, and the BBC article says Henry Gee (editor of Nature) goes as far as to suggest that descendents of this tribe might be found alive today.

The small stature of these individuals was a big surprise. Skull capacity of Homo floresiensis, as it was named, is only 380cc – yet evidence of stone tools, upright posture and other “derived” (i.e., advanced) characteristics seemingly contradicts the suggestion these were primitives.

Maybe it’s not volume but complexity that matters.

“The whole idea that you need a particular brain size to do anything intelligent is completely blown away by this find,” remarked Henry Gee. Everyone seems to be agreeing on one thing: this astonishing find is going to rewrite the textbooks on human evolution – again

1Rex Dalton, “Little lady of Flores forces rethinking of human evolution,” Nature 431, 1029 (28 October 2004); doi:10.1038/4311029a.

2Mirazon and Foley, “Paleoanthropology: Human evolution writ small,” Nature 431, 1043 - 1044 (28 October 2004); doi:10.1038/4311043a.

"People don’t have to be 5 to 6 feet tall to be people. There are little people and big people today, yet they show an uncanny commonality in average intelligence, sociability, language, and understanding that Francis Schaeffer used to call the “mannishness of man” (i.e., the set of universal distinctives that separate people from the animals).

Calling something a “hominid” or “hominin” is just a word game to make scientists appear to know more than gullible reporters. Nothing primitive or transitional about these creatures was found; they have all the marks of full humanity.

National Geographic and its allies in the news media should be excoriated for the racist artwork they published. With only bones to draw from, they made Mr. Floresiensis have a protruded chimp-like jaw, an ape-like squat nose, and black skin.

Everything else about the drawing looks fully human, including the proportion of skull size to body size, musculature, walking posture and hunting skill. Any black person, any respecter of black persons, should be outraged not only at the racist overtones of the picture, but the evolutionary spin put on the data.

Evolutionary paleoanthropology was in such a complete upheaval of confusion already, what’s another skeleton going to hurt? It’s just making the rubble of evolutionary storytelling bounce at this point. The only progress to be hoped for is that they will start calling themselves creationists.."....Source:CreationEvolution Headlines

Nature Magazine's Full Story

Little Lady of Flores Forces Rethink of Human Evolution, by Rex Dalton
Dwarf hominid lived in Indonesia just 18,000 years ago.

A new human-like species - a dwarfed relative who lived just 18,000 years ago in the company of pygmy elephants and giant lizards - has been discovered in Indonesia.

hobbit skull
Peter Brown with skull of little personage.

Skeletal remains show that the hominins, nicknamed 'hobbits' by some of their discoverers, were only one metre tall, had a brain one-third the size of that of modern humans, and lived on an isolated island long after Homo sapiens had migrated through the South Pacific region.

"My jaw dropped to my knees," says Peter Brown, one of the lead authors and a palaeoanthropologist at the University of New England in Armidale, Australia.

I nearly dropped to my knees at one point examining the specimen.

The find has excited researchers with its implications - if unexpected branches of humanity are still being found today, and lived so recently, then who knows what else might be out there? The species' diminutive stature indicates that humans are subject to the same evolutionary forces that made other mammals shrink to dwarf size when in genetic isolation and under ecological pressure, such as on an island with limited resources.

The find has been classed as a new species - Homo floresiensis.

The new species, reported this week in Nature , was found by Australian and Indonesian scientists in a rock shelter called Liang Bua on the island of Flores. The team unearthed a near-complete skeleton, thought to be a female, including the skull, jaw and most teeth, along with bones and teeth from at least seven other individuals. In the same site they also found bones from Komodo dragons and an extinct pygmy elephant called Stegodon.

The hominin bones were not fossilized, but in a condition the team described as being like "mashed potatoes", a result of their age and the damp conditions. "The skeleton had the consistency of wet blotting paper, so a less experienced excavator might have trashed the find," says Richard Roberts of the University of Wollongong, Australia.

"Only the Indonesians were present at the actual moment of discovery - the Australian contingent had departed back to Oz," says Roberts. He credits Thomas Sutikna of the Indonesian Centre for Archaeology in Jakarta for the excellent handling of the samples. The success has inspired national pride at the centre, the researchers say. "This is very important for Indonesian society," says co-author R. P. Soejono.

It's the most extreme example ever found of human adaptation.

The discovery is prompting increased scrutiny of sites on other Southeast Asian islands, both to look for more of the same species and to place it in context with Homo sapiens and Homo erectus, our closest relative. Homo erectus was found to have lived on the nearby island of Java as long as 1.6 million years ago; the team suggests that the Flores hominins may be their descendants.

Dating more bones could help determine whether the species was a short-lived branch of human evolution or survived for longer. Preliminary dating places it at about 70,000 years ago, but it may extend back 800,000 years. "We were hoping we might find a little hominin from that early," says author Michael Morwood, an archaeologist at the University of New England.

In the meantime, researchers are hoping to find DNA in the bones, which would help to clarify the relationships between species. DNA has previously been extracted from European Neanderthals living in the same time period. But they have so far failed to find DNA in the teeth of the Stegodon found in the same cave, says Brown.

Source: Nature.com

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