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John Simkin

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I thought the scientists might be interested in this article in the Guardian today. A more detailed and well illustrated article also appears in the Life section of the newspaper.

"From 18,000 years ago, the one metre-tall human that challenges history of evolution "


Australian and Indonesian scientists have identified a new and completely unexpected species of human. It was only a metre high, had a small brain but a distinctly human face. It made delicate stone tools and it shared the planet with Homo sapiens at least 18,000 years ago.

The scientists report in Nature today that they found the skull and incomplete skeleton of creature known as LB1 in the sediments of a limestone cave at Liang Bua on the remote island of Flores in Indonesia last September.

Since then, fragments of bone from at least seven individuals have been found.

The new creature, officially titled Homo floresiensis but nicknamed "the hobbit" by some researchers, upsets the orthodox view of human evolution.

It means that researchers will now start looking for unexpected human remains in other isolated regions of the world.

It also confirms the belief that modern humans - the only survivors of the genus Homo - are an evolutionary exception. For most of the seven million years of the human story, there were a number of co-existing species of humans.

"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, of the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, one of the authors.

"The other individuals all show similar characteristics and over a time range that now extends from as long ago as 95,000 years to as recently as 13,000 years ago - a population of 'hobbits' that seemed to disappear at about the same time as the pygmy elephants they hunted, both apparently falling foul of a volcanic eruption about 12,000 years ago.

"But local legends have it that such hobbit-like creatures survived further east until almost historical times."

Since the bones discovered are not fossilised they may yield DNA, and answer questions about their genetic link with surviving humans.

LB1 is an adult and its pelvic shape suggests that it was female.

Its teeth are quite worn and the growth lines on the skull are well knit.

It had long arms, and its legs were light, and seemingly chimpanzee-like, but it walked upright.

Its brain capacity is far smaller than any other creature in the human lineage, but it was found with an array of stone tools of the type linked with Homo erectus, the first human to leave Africa, more than a million years ago.

These stone tools are all much smaller than Homo erectus axes and blades, and they were found at the same level as the charred bones of primitive elephants known as stegodons. These, too, were dwarf forms.

"So here we have a creature that is substantially different from modern humans, a totally new species of our genus, that lived almost into historical times. This has a number of startling implications," said Henry Gee, of Nature. "The uniqueness of our human lineage is something we have all grown up with.

"It is the foundation of our religion, our ethics and even our science that humanity has been isolated, is a single species, and has been for a very long time. This find challenges that. It is a remarkable fact that it is only at this moment, in 7m years, that there is only one species of human on the planet."

Until 35,000 years ago, modern humans shared Europe with the Neanderthals.

It now also seems possible that Homo erectus survived in Asia, perhaps to leave a small colony marooned on Flores. Island species often survive by dwarfing - there is a fossil record of midget mammoths from islands north of Siberia and even in the Mediterranean - and the little tribe of survivors on Flores could have adapted to a world in which they cooperated to hunt elephants, but climbed trees to escape huge carnivorous reptiles such as the Komodo dragon.

It must have co-existed with modern humans: Homo sapiens first reached Australia 60,000 years ago, crossing from Indonesia.

So the two species co-existed for many thousands of years. Other limestone caves in the Indonesian archipelago may yield more dramatic evidence.

"This find really does rewrite our knowledge of evolution," said Chris Stringer, head of human origins at London's Natural History Museum.

"How did it get to Flores, this isolated island 500km away from the nearest other archaic humans?

"How did it live? What did it do? What was its diet? How did it grow up?"

"What would modern humans have made of this creature? Would they have recognised it as a person, or a strange kind of ape? We have a whole lot of questions to ask this new species and we are only beginning to ask those questions."

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  • 1 year later...

Photos taken during the Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tennessee in 1925 but never published were recently rediscovered in a box in the Smithsonian Institution. Some are included in the link below, including one of downtown Dayton showing the infamous Robinson's Drugstore (where John Scopes and some community leaders plotted their dastardly crime, to put Dayton on the map).


Edited by Ron Ecker
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  • 1 month later...

John, the Hobbit is a bit of a puzzle.

Theorists with theories to defend have a dilemma here.

Either the tiny Flores man evolved in place as an island dwarf,

becoming "human" in isolation OR

Flores man arrived in Indonesia as Homo sapiens and shrank in place,

with his brain case shrinking back to pre Erectus size..........

As you can imagine both of these possible conclusions are looked at with distaste by

anthropologists -------- developing in place thru the Homo erectus period, only in miniature,

OR RATHER shrinking down into a much smaller brain and body in more recent times..........

I think it is rather the latter, shrinking down with little loss of intelligence in say the last 100,000 years.


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