‘Hobbits’ on Flores, Indonesia

‘Hobbits’ on Flores, Indonesia

 

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‘Hobbits’ on Flores, Indonesia

The Smithsonian website includes numerous discussions. However, I found in particular the ‘Hobbits’ on Flores, Indonesia’ topic to be very fascinating. ‘Flores Man’ or the ‘Hobbit’ is the main subject of the topic who is an extinct species belonging to the genus Homo. Archeologists discovered remains of the species in 2003 in Flores Island in Indonesia. Incomplete skeletons of ten individuals were discovered including a complete skull. The remains sparked intense research aimed at determining whether they stand for a species different from modern humans (Falk, 2011). The archeologists also discovered along the skeletal remains stone tools that can be linked to a civilization existing about 95,000 to 15,000 years ago. Ultimately, the discovery of Flores Man was a major breakthrough in both biology and archeology.

According to the discussion, a Dutch priest named Theodor Verhoeven worked and lived on Flores in a Catholic church. Verhoeven was fascinated by archeology and pursued this discipline while in university. While conducting his research, he discovered numerous archeological sites where Flores Man was identified. Verhoeven was first to account for and publish about stone tools discovered in Flores Island. At the time, paleoanthropologists were not interested in Verhoeven’s discoveries (Falk, 2011). About thirty years later, a research team from Netherlands uncovered findings that confirmed Verhoeven’s findigs. By the late 1990s, more scientists began to accept the possibility of a different human species.

I found this article interesting mainly because it reveals the early discoveries of Flores Man and its contribution to other archeological discoveries. For example, dating tests were conducted on tools discovered in Flores Island. The results of the tests suggest that the tools were probably 700,000 years old. As such, these results suggest that Flores Man used tools designed by beings existing many years before him.

The subject of the topic bears relation to biodiversity and evolution. The aspect of biodiversity comes through the variation between Flores Man and Homo sapiens in terms of genetic variation and ecosystem variation. The article reveals that Flores Man was about three feet tall and was established to belong in the Homo floresiensis species (Morwood and Van, 2007). In addition to a small body size, Flores Man also had a remarkably small brain, similar to that of extinct Australopithecus or chimpanzees. As such, this implies that Homo sapiens are more developed both physically and intellectually.

Flores Man existed up until 13,000 years before present thus making it the longest surviving non-modern human. Flores Island is characterized by mountain peaks and forested regions reaching over 2000 meters. This implies that environment Flores Man thrived in had limited food resources (Morwood and Van, 2007). Such an environment however does not demand high energy requirements. Geology in Flores Island hints that a volcanic eruption approximately 13,000 years ago caused the demise of Flores Man together with the other beings such as elephant Stegodon. Cut marks on Stegodon remains suggest that Flores Man was hunting and feeding on this animal. To support this reason, archeologists discovered burnt bones and hearths in Flores Island. Additionally, Liang Bua cave harbors a layer of volcanic ash dating from this period (Falk, 2011). A change in climate is also a possible reason behind the demise of Flores Man. However, the lack of evidence fails this hypothesis. The arrival of modern humans may also have played a role but their existence only stretches back 11,000 years, 2,000 years after the demise of Flores Man.

 

Reference

Falk, D. (2011). The fossil chronicles: How two controversial discoveries changed our view of human evolution. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Morwood, M. J., & Van, O. P. (2007). A new human: The startling discovery and strange story of the “hobbits” of Flores, Indonesia. New York: Smithsonian Books/Collins.

 

 

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