On 5/23/06, I blogged about Homo floresiensis: New Species or Modern Human? and I mentioned the debate over whether H. floresiensis represents a new species of hominid or just a pathologically affected modern human. These are the two primary dogs in the hunt, but there are others.
Susan Larson of Stoney Brook University gave a presentation in Puerto Rico at a Paleoanthropology Society meeting in which she described the shoulder joint of H. floresiensis as being more representative of H. erectus than of H. sapiens (Culotta 2006). She noted that the specimen may not even be female as was originally suggested and that the humeral articulation at the shoulder reinforce the assertion that H. floresiensis is a new species descended from H. erectus.
A study was published in a recent issue of the journal Nature (Brumm et al 2006), which describes the tool assemblages associated with the Liang Bua hominid remains. Stone artifacts recovered from the cave at Liang Bua, where the remains of H. floresiensis were also discovered, are from Late Pleistocene levels and date to as early as 95 kyr ago to as late as 12 kyr ago. These artifacts are nearly identical in morphology to assemblages excavated in Mata Menge, a site in central Flores, but date to between 840-700 kyr ago. According to Brumm et al –and I agree, this is suggestive that the stone artifacts found at Liang Bua need not be restricted to manufacture by modern humans and could actually be from H. erectus or a descended species. It could also be, as suggested by a commenter to my previous blog entry, that H. floresiensis was skilled at making use of the tools of other cultures.
60 Minutes had a segment today, June 11, 2006, on the subject and one of the interesting things mentioned was the legend on the island of Flores of the legend of the Ebu Go-Go, a small, humanoid creature that “grandmother that eats everything” and lives in the cave of the local volcano. The natives of Flores described the female Ebu Go-Go as having large breasts they throw over their shoulders when they run! I’m not convinced that oral tradition can carry on with any usable detail for the length of time we’re concerned with in regard to the Late Pleistocene remains of H. floresiensis, but the legend is certainly interesting.
Brumm, Adam; Aziz, Fachroel; van den Bergh, Gert D.; et al (2006). Early stone technology on Flores and its implications for Homo floresiensis. Nature, 441(7093), 624-628.
Culotta, E. (2006, 19 May). How the Hobbit Shrugged: Tiny Hominid’s Story Takes New Turn. Science, 312(5776), 983-984.
Falk, D., Hildebolt, C., Smith, K., Morwood, M., Sutikna, T., Brown, P., et al. (2005, 8 April). The Brain of LB1, Homo floresiensis. Science, 308(5719), 242-245.
Falk, D., Hildebolt, C., Smith, K., Morwood, M., Sutikna, T., Brown, P., et al. (2006, 19 May). Response to Comment on “The Brain of LB1, Homo floresiensis.” Science, 312(5776), 999.
Martin, R., Maclarnon, A., Phillips, J., Dussubieux, L., Williams, P., & Dobyns, W. (2006, 19 May). Comment on “The Brain of LB1, Homo floresiensis. [Full Text Free] Science, 312(5776), 999.