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Showing posts from October, 2006

The battle for Middle-Earth

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In 2004, I was a member of an Australian and Indonesian team that reported the discovered remains of a one-metre tall adult human from the Indonesian island of Flores (DOI: 10.1038/nature02956). Named Homo floresiensis, but better known as the hobbit, the find was terribly exciting: the individual had a brain the size of a chimpanzee with many anatomical features that harked back to some of the earliest known humans. I was involved with the radiocarbon dating of the site and discovered that the main skeleton was only around 18,000 years old while a white volcanic ash laid down 13,000 years ago capped the final remains of this species.  This may all sound a long time ago but geologically speaking it was yesterday; in Europe, Neanderthals appear to have died out by 30,000 years ago. Next to ourselves, the ages from Flores make the hobbits the most recently surviving species of human.
With the news coverage of the discovery, a few researchers voiced concern that the remains may represent …