The Hobbit On Darwin Day

Just a very quick post to let everyone know there’s a 7 part update on Homo floresiensis available at YouTube, as mentioned over at The Panda’s Thumb; this from Jim Foley…

A few months ago I attended a talk by Professor Colin Groves of the Australian National University: ‘An update on Homo floresiensis, a.k.a. the “Hobbit”’ (available on YouTube in seven installments: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7). As is well known, there has been an unusually bitter scientific debate over the last couple of years as to whether the hobbit is indeed a new species, or just a small microcephalic human. The term ‘microcephaly’ covers a range of conditions which cause unusually small brain sizes. (Disclaimer: Groves is not a disinterested participant in this debate, having coauthored a paper which argues against the microcephalic interpretation.)

Groves went over a long list of unusual features of the hobbit. The limb bone ratios are unlike those of any apes or humans. They are also very robust: in spite of their small size, hobbits would have been remarkably strong. The arms are too long for humans, and they had unusually large feet (like Tolkien’s hobbits!). The lower jaw lacks a chin, a feature found in all humans (even people who look chinless), and that is also true of a second jaw which has been found. The upper end of the humerus has a twist not found in modern humans, but which was then found in the Turkana BoyHomo erectus/ergaster skeleton once it was looked for. Groves’ conclusion: all of these features make it overwhelmingly unlikely that the hobbit was just a small microcephalic human.

The second paragraph is particularly relevant – most of the controversy so far has centred around the cranial elements of LB1, but the post-cranial features are if anything, more complex and enigmatic than might be apparent from the mainstream coverage – the Hobbit’s evolutionary past is as yet far from clear, and it looks certain that there will be further twists and turns in this strangest of discoveries; as far as I know, work at Liang Bua should be in progress right now, and the world will be waiting with bated breath for further revelations from within its depths.

I’m currently reading Professor Mike Moorwood and Penny van Oosterzee’s book, ‘A New Human‘, which is definitely worth the read – Kambiz made mention in an earlier post of the dispute that erupted concerning the way in which the skull was allegedly mishandled whilst in the care of Professor Jacob, and although I haven’t read that part yet, the rest of what I have read is fascinating stuff. (TJ)

(via Afarensis)

ps: I’m having a few issues with formatting at WP, which means one or two posts might look a bit untidy, especially ‘quotes’, but hopefully I’ll iron these out in due course – Kambiz usually sorts these out for me, but in his absence, one or two errors might creep in.

2 thoughts on “The Hobbit On Darwin Day

  1. This is a great story and 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. Of course, I have a vested interest in hoping this story has some validity to it, having written a fictional novel on the find. There is more on this ongoing controversy about Homo floresiensis at

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