"Hobbit" Symposium Held

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April 28, 2009

An inconclusive meeting was held April 21-23, 2009 at Stony Brook, New York that shed very little new light on the puzzling fossils nicknamed “Hobbit” and formally named Homo floresiensis.  The fossils were discovered in a cave on the island of Flores in Indonesia, southeast of Java, in 2003.  Researchers were puzzled from the start by the diminutive stature (three feet tall), small brain (about 400 cc) and recent age (18,000 years ago). 

Since their discovery, the fossils’ contradictory features have caused some to suggest the “Hobbit”  (the reconstructed skeleton, on display at Stony Brook, is that of a female) was an example of island dwarfism; owed her reduced size to a pathological condition; was, along with the other individuals found with her on the island, a remnant of a Homo erectus population (thought to have gone extinct in Asia at least 300,000 years ago); evidence there was an earlier “out of Africa” exodus than that of     H. erectus circa 1.7 million tears ago, this one by members of an Australopithecus afarensis population.  There are no remains of A. afarensis after 2.9 million years ago in Africa.

There was a consensus reached among participants at this meeting that the condition of the “Hobbit” was not due to a pathological condition, such as disease.

The New York Times has the full story in its April 28 issue.

Below is a map of the Indonesian Archipelago showing the location of the island of Flores.

 

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