According to these press reports, Debbie Argue, of the Australian National University’s School of Archaeology and Anthropology, has produced a new cladistic comparison of Homo floresiensis to many other H. erectus, H. ergaster, H. habilis specimens. I read the releases, and it seems like some gracile australopithecines were also in the comparison set… at least Australopithecus garhi… not too sure though. Her matrix was based off of 40 character states off of the crania and 30 characters off of the mandibles of H. floresiensis and the comparative sample.
She presented her results to her university’s Archaeological Science Conference in February… the news of it is just leaking out now. Her work suggests that the tiny Homo floresiensis are not a biproduct of strong insular dwarfism. A form of speciation also seen on Flores in several species, including a dwarf Stegodon.
Here’s a summary of her results:
- Homo floresiensis is more similar to H. ergaster or H. habilis, indicating that H. floresiensis and H. habilis share a common ancestor.
- H. floresiensis has an arm-leg length ratio that resembles Australopithecus garhi. I don’t know where this is coming from because her character set seemed to be based soley off of skull measurements and not post cranial measurements. Furthermore, LB1, the type specimen for H. floresiensis has a cranial capacity of 417cc. A. garhi had a cranial capacity of 450cc. To Argue, this indicates,
“Flores seems to have evolved around the time of A. garhi, given its primitive arm-leg ratio, whereas H. habilis was moving towards the modern human ratio around the same time…
…[which] means some hominin must have moved out of Africa about two million years ago, which is half a million years earlier than the Dmanisi hominin, which is supposedly the earliest out of Africa.”
This conclusion is in line with conclusion made by academics in September. But the most liberal assesment of when hominins began occupying Flores Island is around 94,000 years ago, there’s a massive gap in the archaeological and fossil record that needs to be acounted for.