Monday, January 29, 2007
Scientists are still debating, not always politely, the status of the "hobbit" remains found on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003. The latest shot: Florida State University anthropologist Dean Falk and his team believe they have disproved the criticism that the only individual (a woman known as LB1) whose cranium has been found was a microcephalic dwarf. Falk has written that, after comparing the skull with those of known microcephalic individuals, the Flores measurements don't fall within the range displayed by that particular deformity. In addition, while there's only one cranium so far, there are two lower jawbones, and they match remains from LB1 and not any type of modern human. In other words, the meter-tall hobbits are once more established as a separate species. Opponents like Robert Martin of the Field Museum. though, are not convinced. This increasingly heated discussion is likely to continue until more examples of distinct Flores skulls can be found. (For whatever it's worth, I'm on the separate-species side.) Further digging at Flores has been held up by a mishmash of scientific and political disputes, but may resume soon.