An October 28, 2004 cover-story in the scientific journal Nature announcing the discovery of the skeletal remains of dwarf species of proto-humans in cave in Flores has been described as "among the most outstanding discoveries in paleoanthropology for half a century" and has instantly become front page news around the world.
The discovery, first made in September 2003 but kept under tight wraps until its announcements last week, was the joint discovery of an Australian-Indonesian research team comprised of Peter Brown and M.J.. Morwood of the school of human and environmental studies at the University of New England in Armidale, New South Wales and a group of five scientists from the Indonesian Center for Archaeology in Jakarta: Thomas Sutikna, R.R. Sujono, E. Wahyu Saptomo, Rokus Awe Due and Jatmiko.
The excitement of their discovery centers around a partial discovery of "Hobbit" – the nickname given to the partial skeleton of a 3-foot-tall female found in a hillside cave on the island of Flores, east of Bali. A relative newcomer in anthropological terms, Hobbit is estimated to have lived only 18,000 years ago and, despite her rather diminutive brain size, is believed to have been an adept sailor, hunter and user of tools.
Why all the Fuss?
The scientific world is intrigued at the discovery of Hobbit in Flores for a variety of reasons. Contemporaneous with our own human ancestors homo sapiens, scientists now wonder what degree of contact, if any, existed between the Hobbit or Homo floresiensis and our own direct ancestors. The discovery of Flores Man also opens an entire field of study into evolutionary dwarfism - a process that favored the survival of the diminutive Hobbit and the dwarf elephants that she hunted on Flores. That Homo erectus managed to travel from Africa to Flores is also causing scientists to reconsider evolutionary thinking and current appraisals of the innate abilities of Homo erectus who apparently possessed communication skills, social organizational abilities, and even some rudimentary skills as sailors to travel from the Asian land bridge to water-isolated Flores.
Coming Soon on National Geographic
The sudden emergence of a new, recent species of hominids and its implications on the study of human evolution will be the subject of an important National Geographic Film scheduled for broadcast in Spring 2005.
Bali Discovery Tours provided logistical and technical support in Bali, Flores and Jakarta to National Geographic film teams documenting this important archeological discovery.
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