Skip to comments.HUMAN ORIGINS: Battle Erupts Over the 'Hobbit' Bones
Posted on 02/26/2005 2:32:32 PM PST by Lessismore
Research on human fossils generally proceeds at a leisurely pace. Those who discover new bones sometimes take years to analyze them, while their colleagues and rivals wait impatiently to get a good look. But that's not the case with the 18,000-year-old "hobbit" skeleton of Indonesia. Ever since the Australian- Indonesian team that discovered the bones made the startling claim that they are the remains of a species of small, archaic human, Homo floresiensis (Nature, 28 October, p. 1055), the bones have been analyzed and reanalyzed at a breathtaking pace. For the past 3 months, however, the studies have been directed not by the discoverers but by a rival who has taken possession of the skeleton.
The bones were discovered in 2003 in the Liang Bua cave on the Indonesian island of Flores by a team led by archaeologist Mike Morwood of the University of New England, Armidale. But in November last year, the Center for Archaeology in Jakarta agreed to let Indonesian paleoanthropologist Teuku Jacob study the skeleton in his laboratory at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta (Science, 12 November 2004, p. 1116). Jacob has since invited other researchers to inspect it and, in a move that Morwood calls "unethical" and "illegal," asked a team from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, to conduct DNA and other analyses on a 1-gram sliver of rib. Jean-Jacques Hublin, director of the department of human evolution at the Max Planck, who carried the sample to Leipzig, counters that he has "formal authorization" from Tony Djubiantono, head of the Jakarta archaeology center, to analyze the sample.
Jacob has announced that, in his view, the skeleton is that of a modern human pygmy with microcephaly. "There are [living] pygmies near there--near Liang Bua," he notes. Last week, three paleoanthropologists, two of whom had publicly challenged Morwood and his colleagues' analysis--Maciej Henneberg of the University of Adelaide, Alan Thorne of Australian National University in Canberra, and Robert Eckhardt of Pennsylvania State University--announced, after examining the bones with an Australian camera crew looking on, that they agree with Jacob. Morwood calls this interpretation "mind-boggling."
DNA analysis could settle the case. If "the DNA sequence falls outside the variability seen in modern human sequences, then we could be confident that it's not a modern human," says Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck. But he estimates that the sample has a "less than 50%" chance of yielding ancient DNA. And "if it carries a sequence similar to a modern human, we will not be able to exclude contamination [with DNA from those who have handled the sample] completely," says Pääbo. Max Planck scientists also may do stable isotope analysis, which offers clues to diet, and radiocarbon dating. "Professor Jacob has the fullest authority to ask us to perform this analysis," says Hublin, who has worked with Jacob for years.
Behind the infighting lies the question of who should have the right to study important fossils. Jacob argues that for decades, archaeologists have brought bones excavated from Liang Bua to his laboratory for anatomical analyses. But Morwood points out that he has a signed agreement with the archaeological center, the official repository for the bones, allowing his team to work with the center's scientists to study the specimen. "We haven't been able to do the analysis we'd want to do because we haven't seen the specimen since [Jacob] took it in November," says geologist and Morwood colleague Bert Roberts of the University of Wollongong. The deadline for returning the bones was 1 January, but Djubiantono has extended it twice.
Last week Jacob told Science that he had "almost finished" analyzing the specimen. But Morwood, speaking from the field in East Java, says he is not optimistic about the bones' return to Jakarta. "We're moving on with our research," he says, planning publications based on previous measurements and also mounting new field expeditions to gather more material. Jacob says he, too, plans "a series of articles on different aspects, with colleagues." The conflict continues--and for now, at least, so does the research.
And all this time you thought "Middle Earth" was just a myth....
Better ping the list quick before the trolls come after the hobbits
Right. It's a slow day. We need a thread. Cranking up the ping machine ...
This is the place.
Reminds me of the movie Skullduggery starting Bert Reynolds, and Roger C. Carmel (aka Harry Mudd of Star Trek fame.)
Cute little prehistoric people live in....I believe Indonesia or New Guinea.....are in the way of evil captalist oil drillers.....so 1970's....or today for that matter if you are on board with the Ward Churchill/Howard Dean cabal.....
Hmmm. What are the odds
that the bones you find are from
a rare race of folks
and from a person
with an abnormal size head?
"Science" is bizarre . . .
Geeeez, I watched the original announcement of the discovery and thought it was really exciting that a pigmy form of early hominid might have been discovered.
Except that today, Ward Churchill would claim to have written the script : "an ORIGINAL screenplay by Vietnam war hero, native American activist, writer and university professor WARD CHURCHILL based on an older screenplay with or without permission of the author, depending on whether I get caught and I WOULD have beeen in Vietnam if I coulda, honest wannabe Injun
I agree. Even if the DNA doesn't pan out, there should be some anatomical clues if it really is microcephaly.
Thanks for the ping!
So, the plot thickens ?!
Hobbit bone wars
Professor says new analysis on stolen bones confirms hobbit just a small, sick human
by Carl Wieland, CEO/president, AiGAustralia
28 February 2005
We have already featured two articles on the tiny human specimen nicknamed the hobbit, after the diminutive quasi-humans imagined in Tolkiens Lord of the Rings fiction classics. See Soggy Dwarf Bones and Hobbling the Hobbit.
The scientific name assigned to this alleged new species of human is Homo floresiensis (after the Indonesian island of Flores, on which the bones of seven individuals were discovered).
These remains are now the centre of a substantial international controversy. Indonesias Professor Teuku Jacob, who had allegedly agreed to return the bones (to the Australian team which made the discovery) by 1 January this year, finally returned them on 23 February.
Meanwhile, however, he has permitted two other Australian scientists to study them in detailDr Alan Thorne of the Australian National University, and Professor Maciej Henneberg, of the Department of Anatomical Sciences at the University of Adelaide. The discoverers have protested loudly at the alleged impropriety of this pair studying stolen remains.
Following their three-day examination of the most complete specimen, Professor Henneberg said it confirmed his previous opinion, gained from studying the reports, that this was a modern human who had a brain-shrinking disorder called microcephaly. He is reported as saying that there is now absolutely no doubt that this person had a growth disorder.1
Whether the tiny people of Flores were indeed microcephalic modern types, or whether they represent a pygmy version of so-called Homo erectus, the point is really the same. Namely, that there is no reason not to classify them allthe Flores inhabitants as well as H. erectusas Homo sapienspart of the range of variation found within a single species (see also Skull wars: new Homo erectus skull in Ethiopia).
In fact, evolutionist Alan Thorne is one of those who, along with the University of Michigans Milford Wolpoff, has been saying for years to his paleoanthropological colleagues that, even though they believe that H. erectus evolved into modern humans, it is wrong to assign a separate species name to it. Thorne and Henneberg are natural allies in this; Henneberg has recently published his findings that if you bunch all the apemen in together, they exhibit the range of variation one would normally find within a single species!2
While this is radical even by creationist standards, it certainly undermines the dogmatism with which evolutionists have claimed that these sorts of apemen demonstrate our nonhuman ancestryand this is from an expert in anatomy!3
The Australian scientists who made the original discovery are even further dismayed that about two grams of the hobbit bones have been sent, without their permission, to Germanys Max Planck Institute for extracting DNA.
While not buying into the ethics controversy surrounding the hobbit bone wars, we await the results of the DNA analysis with great interest. We would suggest with a great deal of confidence that it will be consistent with the human status of the tiny former inhabitants of Flores, and thus consistent with a biblical recent-creation worldview.
Sadly, the media hype surrounding the initial discovery, as is so often the case, does its evolutionary-brainwashing damage in the public arena, without the subsequent sober withdrawals or corrections getting anywhere near the same airtime.
References and notes
Cited in Smith, D., Hobbit just a little man with small brain, Sydney Morning Herald website, 19 February 2005. Return to text.
Henneberg M., de Miguel C., Hominins are a single lineage: brain and body size variability does not reflect postulated taxonomic diversity of hominins, Homo. 55(12):2137, 2004. Return to text.
But see also The non-transitions in human evolutionon evolutionists terms, citing evolutionists who classify hominins as a group distinct from australopiths. Return to text.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.