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Hobbit-sized (ancient) humans

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Hobbit-sized (ancient) humans

Old 10-27-04, 03:20 PM
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Hobbit-sized (ancient) humans

Weird discovery, but fire, stone tools, group hunt for meat spells human.
http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/science....ap/index.html
Scientists uncover possible new species of human
Dwarf skeleton is 18,000 years old
Wednesday, October 27, 2004 Posted: 1:06 PM EDT (1706 GMT)

(AP) -- In a breathtaking discovery, scientists working on a remote Indonesian island say they have uncovered the bones of a human dwarf species marooned for eons while modern man rapidly colonized the rest of the planet.

One tiny specimen, an adult female measuring about 3 feet tall, is described as "the most extreme" figure to be included in the extended human family. Certainly, she is the shortest.

This hobbit-sized creature appears to have lived as recently as 18,000 years ago on the island of Flores, a kind of tropical Lost World populated by giant lizards and miniature elephants.

She is the best example of a trove of fragmented bones that account for as many as seven of these primitive individuals. Scientists have named the new species **** floresiensis, or Flores Man. The specimens' ages range from 95,000 to 12,000 years old.

"So the 18,000-year-old skeleton cannot be some kind of 'freak' that we just happened to stumble across," said one of the discoverers, radiocarbon dating expert Richard G. Roberts of the University of Wollongong in Australia.

Flores Man was hardly formidable. His grapefruit-sized brain was about a quarter the size of the brain of our species, **** sapiens. It is closer in size with the brains of transitional prehuman species in Africa more than 3 million years ago.

Yet evidence suggests Flores Man made stone tools, lit fires and organized group hunts for meat.

Just how this primitive, remnant species managed to hang on and whether it crossed paths with modern humans is uncertain. Geologic evidence suggests a massive volcanic eruption sealed its fate some 12,000 years ago, along with other unusual species on the island.

Still, researchers say the perseverance of Flores Man smashes the conventional wisdom that modern humans began to systematically crowd out other upright-walking species 160,000 years ago and have dominated the planet alone for tens of thousands of years.

And it demonstrates that Africa, the acknowledged cradle of humanity, does not hold all the answers to persistent questions of how -- and where -- we came to be.

"It is arguably the most significant discovery concerning our own genus in my lifetime," said anthropologist Bernard Wood of George Washington University, who reviewed the research independently.

Discoveries simply "don't get any better than that," proclaimed Robert Foley and Marta Mirazon Lahr of Cambridge University in a written analysis.

To others, the specimen's baffling combination of slight dimensions and coarse features bears almost no meaningful resemblance either to modern humans or to our large, archaic cousins.

They suggest that Flores Man doesn't belong in the genus **** at all, even if it was a recent contemporary.

"I don't think anybody can pigeonhole this into the very simple-minded theories of what is human," anthropologist Jeffery Schwartz of the University of Pittsburgh. "There is no biological reason to call it ****. We have to rethink what it is."

Details of the discovery appear in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

Researchers from Australia and Indonesia found the partial skeleton 13 months ago in a shallow limestone cave known as Liang Bua. The cave, which extends into a hillside for about 130 feet, has been the subject of scientific analysis since 1964.

Near the skeleton were stone tools and animal remains, including teeth from a young Stegodon, or prehistoric dwarf elephant, as well as fish, birds and rodents. Some of the bones were charred, suggesting they were cooked.

Excavations are continuing. In 1998, stone tools and other evidence were found on Flores suggested the presence 900,000 years ago of another early human, **** erectus. The tools were found a century after the celebrated discovery in the 1890s of big-boned H. erectus fossils in eastern Java.


Now, researchers suggest H. erectus spread to remote Flores and throughout the region, perhaps on bamboo rafts. Caves on surrounding islands are the target of future studies, they said.

Researchers suspect that Flores Man probably is an H. erectus descendant that was squeezed by evolutionary pressures.

Nature is full of mammals -- deer, squirrels and pigs, for example -- living in marginal, isolated environments that gradually dwarf when food isn't plentiful and predators aren't threatening.

On Flores, the Komodo dragon and other large meat-eating lizards prowled. But Flores Man didn't have to worry about violent human neighbors.

This is the first time that the evolution of dwarfism has been recorded in a human relative, said the study's lead author, Peter Brown of the University of New England in Australia.

Scientists are still struggling to identify it's jumbled features.

Many say they its face and skull features show sufficient traits to be included in the **** family that includes modern humans. It would be the eighth species in the **** category.

George Washington's Wood, for example, finds it "convincing."

Others aren't sure.

For example, they say the skull is wide like H. erectus. But the sides are rounder and the crown traces an arc from ear to ear. The skull of H. erectus has steeper sides and a pointed crown, they said.

The lower jaw contains large, blunt teeth and roots like Australopithecus, a prehuman ancestor in Africa more than 3 million years ago. The front teeth are smaller than modern human teeth.

The eye sockets are big and round, but they don't carry a prominent browline.

The tibia in the leg shares similarities with apes.

"I've spent a sleepless night trying to figure out what to do with this thing," said Schwartz. "It makes me think of nothing else in this world."
Old 10-27-04, 03:22 PM
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I love how the forum censors the word "h o m o" even when it's used scientifically.
Old 10-27-04, 03:32 PM
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The only remaining member of this species is still stuck on a remote Pacific island.

Old 10-27-04, 03:35 PM
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Originally posted by Breakfast with Girls
The only remaining member of this species is still stuck on a remote Pacific island.
Their size was obviously influenced by their diet, as this particular specimen seems to have grown to average human size.
Old 10-27-04, 03:39 PM
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Hey, you eat mini-elephants, you're going to be small.
Old 10-27-04, 03:39 PM
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[yawn]

Let me know when they find a ring near the remains.
Old 10-27-04, 03:42 PM
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Wan't there a civilization called Lumeria(sp?) that fit this description?
Old 10-27-04, 03:42 PM
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So - they found one (partial) skeleton, and declare that they found a race of dwarves? How do they know they didn't just find the short chick in the village that every body picked on?
Old 10-27-04, 03:43 PM
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So the forum censors out a proper scientific term but it lets a direct reference to our first president's member to go unchecked?
Old 10-27-04, 03:43 PM
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Originally posted by Breakfast with Girls
The only remaining member of this species is still stuck on a remote Pacific island.

I thought there was one or two running around Otterville.
Old 10-27-04, 03:45 PM
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Originally posted by Nosmo Rex
So - they found one (partial) skeleton, and declare that they found a race of dwarves? How do they know they didn't just find the short chick in the village that every body picked on?
No, Mr. I-No-Read.

She is the best example of a trove of fragmented bones that account for as many as seven of these primitive individuals. Scientists have named the new species **** floresiensis, or Flores Man. The specimens' ages range from 95,000 to 12,000 years old.

"So the 18,000-year-old skeleton cannot be some kind of 'freak' that we just happened to stumble across," said one of the discoverers, radiocarbon dating expert Richard G. Roberts of the University of Wollongong in Australia.
Old 10-27-04, 03:49 PM
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Originally posted by Breakfast with Girls
No, Mr. I-No-Read.
I still read fragmented bones.

I shall call her Bridget.
Old 10-27-04, 03:49 PM
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They are alive and well, some have ended up on The Apprentice
Old 10-27-04, 03:50 PM
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The BBC (slightly) wrote their own article rather than posting AP.
A little more info.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3948165.stm
'Hobbit' joins human family tree

Scientists have discovered a new and tiny species of human that lived in Indonesia at the same time our own ancestors were colonising the world.
The new species - dubbed "the Hobbit" due to its small size - lived on Flores island until at least 12,000 years ago.

The fact that little people feature in the legends of modern Flores islanders suggests we might have to take tales of Bigfoot and the Yeti more seriously.

Details of the sensational find are described in the journal Nature.

The whole idea that you need a particular brain size to do anything intelligent is completely blown away by this find

Dr Henry Gee, Nature
The discovery has been hailed as one of the most significant of its type in decades.

Australian archaeologists unearthed the bones while digging at a site called Liang Bua, one of numerous limestone caves on Flores.

The remains of the partial skeleton were found at a depth of 5.9m. At first, the researchers thought it was the body of a child. But further investigation revealed otherwise.

Wear on the teeth and growth lines on the skull confirm it was an adult, features of the pelvis identify it as female and a leg bone confirms that it walked upright like we do.

"When we got the dates back from the skeleton and we found out how young it was, one anthropologist working with us said it must be wrong because it had so many archaic [primitive] traits," said co-discoverer Mike Morwood, associate professor of archaeology at the University of New England, Australia.

King of the swingers?

The 18,000-year-old specimen, known as Liang Bua 1 or LB1, has been assigned to a new species called **** floresiensis. It was about one metre tall with long arms and a skull the size of a large grapefruit.

The researchers have since found remains belonging to six other individuals from the same species.

LB1 shared its island with a golden retriever-sized rat, giant tortoises and huge lizards - including Komodo dragons - and a pony-sized dwarf elephant called Stegodon which the "hobbits" probably hunted.


A male **** floresiensis may have looked something like this (Image: National Geographic)
Chris Stringer, head of human origins at London's Natural History Museum said the long arms were an intriguing feature and might even suggest H. floresiensis spent much of its time in the trees.

"We don't know this. But if there were Komodo dragons about you might want to be up in the trees with your babies where it's safe. It's something for future research, but the fact they had long arms is at least suggestive," Professor Stringer told BBC News Online. Studies of its hands and feet, which have not yet been described, may shed light on this question, he added.

H. floresiensis probably evolved from another species called **** erectus, whose remains have been discovered on the Indonesian island of Java.

**** erectus may have arrived on Flores about one million years ago, evolving its tiny physique in the isolation provided by the island.

What is surprising about this is that this species must have made it to Flores by boat. Yet building craft for travel on open water is traditionally thought to have been beyond the intellectual abilities of **** erectus.

Legendary creatures

Even more intriguing is the fact that Flores' inhabitants have incredibly detailed legends about the existence of little people on the island they call Ebu Gogo.

The islanders describe Ebu Gogo as being about one metre tall, hairy and prone to "murmuring" to each other in some form of language. They were also able to repeat what islanders said to them in a parrot-like fashion.

"There have always been myths about small people - Ireland has its Leprechauns and Australia has the Yowies. I suppose there's some feeling that this is an oral history going back to the survival of these small people into recent times," said co-discoverer Peter Brown, an associate professor of archaeology at New England.

When we got the dates back from the skeleton and we found out how young it was, one anthropologist working with us said it must be wrong

Mike Morwood, University of New England
The last evidence of this human at Liang Bua dates to just before 12,000 years ago, when a volcanic eruption snuffed out much of Flores' unique wildlife.

Yet there are hints H. floresiensis could have lived on much later than this. The myths say Ebu Gogo were alive when Dutch explorers arrived a few hundred years ago and the very last legend featuring the mythical creatures dates to 100 years ago.

But Henry Gee, senior editor at Nature magazine, goes further. He speculates that species like H.floresiensis might still exist, somewhere in the unexplored tropical forest of Indonesia.

Textbook rewrite

Professor Stringer said the find "rewrites our knowledge of human evolution." He added: "To have [this species] present 12,000 years ago is frankly astonishing."

**** floresiensis might have evolved its small size in response to the scarcity of resources on the island.

"When creatures get marooned on islands they evolve in new and unpredictable courses. Some species grow very big and some species grow very small," Dr Gee explained.


The remains hint at unforseen diversity in ancient humans
The sophistication of stone tools found with the "hobbit" has surprised some scientists given the human's small brain size of 380cc (around the same size as a chimpanzee).

"The whole idea that you need a particular brain size to do anything intelligent is completely blown away by this find," Dr Gee commented.

Because the remains are relatively recent and not fossilised, scientists are even hopeful they might yield DNA, which could provide an entirely new perspective on the evolution of the human lineage.
Old 10-27-04, 04:08 PM
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When creatures get marooned on islands they evolve in new and unpredictable courses. Some species grow very big and some species grow very small," Dr Gee explained.

And some species grow a lot of hair?
Old 10-27-04, 04:26 PM
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I knew it. Lord of the Rings was a documentary!
Old 10-27-04, 05:05 PM
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i wonder what would happen if there were still multiple species of humans alive today? would we keep them in zoos? enslave them?
Old 10-27-04, 05:09 PM
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prediction - this will be nothing, but most people will never know that as this story will be the front of national geographic, while the next will get 5 lines in the back.
Old 10-27-04, 05:13 PM
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Re: Hobbit-sized (ancient) humans

Originally posted by OldDude
She is the best example of a trove of fragmented bones that account for as many as seven of these primitive individuals.


I guess we all know now that Dopey was a chick.

Old 10-27-04, 06:13 PM
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Originally posted by al_bundy
i wonder what would happen if there were still multiple species of humans alive today? would we keep them in zoos? enslave them?
It seems pretty clear there was some kind of "there can be only one" competition among the early human species.
(and we won! )
Old 10-27-04, 07:31 PM
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Originally posted by OldDude
It seems pretty clear there was some kind of "there can be only one" competition among the early human species.
(and we won! )
It seems to me that the numbers of those species were pretty small (especially compared to the billions on the earth today), and yet they managed to evolve significantly in a fairly short amount of time, where we can't seem to.

Punctuated Equilibrium at its finest, I suppose.
Old 10-27-04, 08:04 PM
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You could argue whether it is technology or evolution, but we seem much smarter, better toolmakers, better farmers. Some of it is knowledge builds on knowledge (once you can write it down) but could those cavemen have kept up with the explosive pace of technology? I think there is change going on. In caveman times, success required a combination of strength and intelligence. Strength has become extremely secondary and intelligence is everything in modern times.

Now, we seem to be using the intellignece to determine better ways to kill each other, instead of all getting along. But I reject the idea of stasis.
Old 10-27-04, 08:15 PM
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if they were real hobbits then all their hair would be on their feet
Old 10-27-04, 08:16 PM
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I hope they dig up a Balrog next!
Old 10-27-04, 09:44 PM
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MOM?!?!?

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