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More Evidence For Hobbit Sized Species 327

Posted by Zonk
from the frodo-meets-science dept.
GogglesPisano writes "CNN.com reports that scientists digging in a remote Indonesian cave have uncovered a jaw bone that they say adds more evidence that a tiny prehistoric Hobbit-like species once existed." From the article: "The discovery of a jaw bone, to be reported in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature, represents the ninth individual belonging to a group believed to have lived as recently as 12,000 years ago. The bones are in a wet cave on the island of Flores in the eastern limb of the Indonesian archipelago, near Australia."
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More Evidence For Hobbit Sized Species

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  • by RailGunner (554645) * on Tuesday October 11, 2005 @05:16PM (#13768496) Journal
    From TFA: A vocal scientific minority insists the Hobbit specimens do not represent a new species at all. They believe the specimens are nothing more than the bones of modern humans that suffered from microencephaly, a broadly defined genetic disorder that results in small brain size and other defects.

    And, at least two groups of opponents have submitted their own studies to other leading scientific journals refuting the Flores work.

    "This paper doesn't clinch it. I feel strongly that people are glossing over the problems with this interpretation," said Robert Martin, a biological anthropologist and provost of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 11, 2005 @05:21PM (#13768550)
      Or a G-nome.
    • From TFA: A vocal scientific minority insists the Hobbit specimens do not represent a new species at all. They believe the specimens are nothing more than the bones of modern humans that suffered from microencephaly, a broadly defined genetic disorder that results in small brain size and other defects.

      Seems from the news that Smurf Village has been bombed [canada.com] and will feature in a UNICEF ad in Belgium next week.

      it was probably done by president gargamel...

    • by blamanj (253811) on Tuesday October 11, 2005 @07:34PM (#13769719)
      Yes. The skeptics are publishing, too. More here [bbc.co.uk].
  • by powerpuffgirls (758362) on Tuesday October 11, 2005 @05:17PM (#13768510)
    Wow! Eastern limb of the Indonesian archipelago, near Australia, which is close to New Zealand, which is where LOTR was shot.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 11, 2005 @05:35PM (#13768719)
      which starred Ian MacKellen who was also in X-Men with Donna Goodhand, who was in Cavedweller with... Kevin Bacon.
    • Wow! And if you look at the date of the CNN article, if you times the numeric value of the month by 2, and add it to the numeric value of the article's day, you get 31, which is the sum of the numeric release date (12 + 19) of Fellowship of the Ring! Coincidence?? I think not!
      • Wow! And if you look at the date of the CNN article, if you times the numeric value of the month by 2, and add it to the numeric value of the article's day, you get 31, which is the sum of the numeric release date (12 + 19) of Fellowship of the Ring! Coincidence?? I think not!

        Yeah, sort of like how a Mexican will get a thrill of familiarity from a documentary on Baffin Island.

    • They're trolls.

      They know because they found a cave painting nearby that said "F1rst P0st!"

  • the jawbone was placed there by satan to test your faith
    • by RedNovember (887384) on Tuesday October 11, 2005 @05:28PM (#13768651)

      Speaking of which...

      What is the religious answer to this? Do they contend that these were a failed first protoype of later man? Someone give me an argument to go on...

      • by Anonymous Coward
        What is the religious answer to this? Do they contend that these were a failed first protoype of later man? Someone give me an argument to go on...

        Depends on the religion. Don't believe the haters who tell you that everyone who's religious has a feeble and closed mind, and just spouts whatever they last heard coming from a pulpit: there are as many opinions among the religious as among atheists. In fact, you'll probably find an even more diverse range of opinions among the religious, since we don't feel q
      • They were placed there through the grace of His Noodly Appendage to test our faith, duh!
      • Well, as one of the more Fundamentalist Christians on /., I'll attempt this one ^_^. I'm hardly an expert on matters theological or scientific, but the first thought would be... they're humans who have a genetic tendency toward small size. There's no reason this couldn't be a population-wide trait and still fit with the Bible. The only dispute would be time of the change, as some Christians maintain a 9,000-ish year old earth.

        Another direction to approach this from would be that, while they are tool-users,
        • Well, largely your claim is something of a cheat, if you advocate some sort of Biblical literalism, rather like the way that NOah's Ark advocates will insert notions like "calm" flooding or moon poles to get over the engineering possibilities of the Ark. Yes, in all cases the Bible doesn't say such details didn't exist, but by that logic I could prove the Adam had a microwave oven.
      • by Goody (23843) on Tuesday October 11, 2005 @06:21PM (#13769162) Journal
        What is the religious answer to this? Do they contend that these were a failed first protoype of later man? Someone give me an argument to go on...

        While we're asking religious questions, what is the religous answer to why my truck is burning more oil these days?
      • "What is the religious answer to this? Do they contend that these were a failed first protoype of later man? Someone give me an argument to go on..."

        I don't think there is one. "The sons of god married the daughters of men" in Genesis speaks of descendents being giants and corrupt. No real mention of dwarves in that text to my knowledge. Of course, there is plenty of references to dwarves and elves in folk religion.

        Although if one views *Noah* (or whatever his true Sumerian/Babylonian name was) as a surv
        • Religion/mythology is pretty interesting if you chuck the dogma.

          Or it comes out looking like some von Daniken crap-o-classic. Write a book, call it "Noah: Nude Tenter and the Last Atlantean" or "Chariots of Bullshit".

      • Well it depends on the religion. For the ones that accept evolution, then this is just another of God's creation, part of his master plan. Of the christians that reject evolution, most of them reject the scientific validity of the other pre-human hominids that have been discovered (Sally, etc). They assert that they are just odd humans (diseased or otherwise), and not a "missing link" or seperate species. I am sure that they feel the same about this discovery.
      • According to the Vatican, head of the Roman Catholic Church, evolution is "virtually certain", in the words of the International Theological Commission.

        According to the latest Pope, the Christian story of Genesis and evolution are complementary realities -- Genesis explains the why, while evolution tries to explain the mechanism by how it happened.

  • by complexmath (449417) * on Tuesday October 11, 2005 @05:18PM (#13768525)
    I hear Peter Jackson found a whole town of them there.
  • by ThosLives (686517) on Tuesday October 11, 2005 @05:19PM (#13768537) Journal
    You know, I just watched Willow again the other day and it's full of "small" people. How are these "ancient" remains different from modern small folk (other than being old, of course)? None of the articles say anything about that. For instance, we don't classify folks with dwarfism as nonhuman, so why would an ancient instance of dwarfism indicate a different species?

    Shouldn't the first thing in studying these remains to be to eliminate this possibility (along with full explanations as to why). I admit I've not delved too deep into this, but it is something which has always bothered me in the back of my mind.

    • by the phantom (107624) * on Tuesday October 11, 2005 @05:24PM (#13768600) Homepage
      Not knowing the data that well, midgets and dwarfs seem to make up only a very small proportion of the population. If you sampled 100 people, what is the chance that you will get one diminutive person, let alone 20? The more skeletons they find that are similarly proportioned, the less likely it is that they represent statistical outliers, and the more likely it is that they represent the norm. Given the number of skeletons that have been found, I find the argument that they are statistical outliers to be unconvincing (though still possible, I suppose). A more likely explanation is that the small skeletons represent a significantly different population, whether it be an isolated group of Homo erectus, or an offshoot of the Home erectus line.
    • So far it doesn't appear to be a human. The shape of the skull doesn't match that of any known pygmy, dwarf, midget or diseased human. It is far more simular to Homo erectus than Homo sapian. The time range over which they appear to have existed also suggests that they evolved from Homo erectus, not from Homo sapian (although the two may have co-existed latter on).

      Of course there is still a ton more to be studied, such as DNA, and so this is certainly not a closed case by any means. But so far it is differe
    • How are these "ancient" remains different from modern small folk

      Well IANAB but:

      Number 1: They aren't homo sapiens. They are a species almost as different from you as apes. Our common ancestor may only be a few million years removed.

      Number 2: This isn't a deformity. This is just the way they are. A pair of midgets can have a full-size child. These people had children the same size as they were.
      • Re:Two Reasons: (Score:3, Informative)

        by the phantom (107624) *
        You cannot prove either of those statements, hence there is some debate in the scientific community. While you may very possibly be correct, you can't know. Don't state as proven fact things that are far more nebulous.

        1) They may be Homo sapiens though they certainly seem more similar to Homo erectus. Thus, while they may be a different species from Homo sapiens, their status with regards to other members of the Homo line is uncertain at best.

        2) Maybe, maybe not. I would tend to agree with you -
  • From TFA (Score:2, Funny)

    by max99ted (192208)
    However, the researchers acknowledge that the Hobbit shares a bizarre and unexplained mixture of modern and primitive traits. For example, its long, dangling arms were thought to have belonged only to much older prehuman species that were confined to Africa
    Yet more evidence of FSM, I say.
  • by Gadgetfreak (97865) on Tuesday October 11, 2005 @05:21PM (#13768559)
    Frodo Lived!

  • Did the hobbits appear before or after Moses? I'm confused..
  • Wet cave? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Tackhead (54550) on Tuesday October 11, 2005 @05:25PM (#13768617)
    > The discovery of a jaw bone, to be reported in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature, represents the ninth individual belonging to a group believed to have lived as recently as 12,000 years ago. The bones are in a wet cave on the island of Flores in the eastern limb of the Indonesian archipelago, near Australia.

    Thiss preciousss twelve thousands of yearses olds jawsbone... found in dark deep dripsy cave... thiss iss not ssomethings that's coming from tricksy hobbitses!

  • by sczimme (603413) on Tuesday October 11, 2005 @05:27PM (#13768637)

    (AP) -- Scientists say they have found more bones in an Indonesian cave that offer additional evidence of a second human species -- short and hobbit-like -- that roamed the Earth the same time as modern man.

    I thought the Hobbit reference was thrown [gratuitously] into the summary to grab the attention of the /. crowd. Lo and behold, the AP actually made the comparison - interesting.
  • Orcs & Trolls????? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by big-giant-head (148077) on Tuesday October 11, 2005 @05:28PM (#13768644)
    When they the jaw bones of some Orcs and Trolls THEN I'LL BE IMPRESSED!
  • Actually... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by michaelzhao (801080) on Tuesday October 11, 2005 @05:30PM (#13768668)
    There is a pygmy like species in parts of Asia and Africa. Although they are off the species Homo Sapien, they are much shorter because they do not have a growth spurt. Scientists are really interested in them because they wonder what genes cause growth and if they can be influenced. I went to a bio conference in Atlanta with my AP Biology class to listen to one. Extremely interesting. Linkage here

    ahref=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pygmyrel=url2ht ml-16837 [slashdot.org]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pygmy>
    • You are using the wrong terms here. They are not a seperate species. They are still 100% human. The term you probably wanted to use was 'race' or 'variety', though I do not think that the pygmies are generally genetically distinct enough to warrent even that much. It would probably be best to go with 'population' -- i.e.:

      There are pygmy populations in parts of Asia and Africa. Although they are Homo sapiens, they are much shorter because they do not have growth spurt...
    • The issue here is not just physical stature, but cranial capacity. These "hobbits" have a braincase about a third the size of any modern human. All modern humans, irregardless of where they live or what population they belong to, all fall within the same measurement.
  • DNA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by truckaxle (883149) * on Tuesday October 11, 2005 @05:36PM (#13768724) Homepage
    If only they could find some DNA sound like a clone of these little fellas would make some great servants being established tool makers and all. On a serious side it would be interesting to see what the development of the nominal human code of ethics (ie thou shall not kill) would have been if there were some creatures alive today positioned between modern humans and chipanzees in terms of intellect.
    • Indeed, though the same could be said about Neanderthals (possily part of Homo sapiens, though the mtDNA evidence is increasingly to the other), other branches of the Homo line (i.e. Homo erectus, Homo habilis), or even the Australopithicenes. Who knows where this creature would have fit into the IQ distribution of the family tree? From the article, it sounds like they were more similar to Homo erectus than anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens).
    • "If only they could find some DNA sound like a clone of these little fellas would make some great servants being established tool makers and all."

      Do you really want to put all the Wal*Mart employees on the welfare rolls again? Don't overturn the apple cart! :)

  • From the article "Scientists Are Unmoved by Claim of New Species [nytimes.com]":
    But a vigorous minority of skeptical scientists are unmoved by the new findings. They contend that the skeletal remains are more likely to be deformed modern humans, not a distinct species.
  • This is a little too late--the trilogy has already been through the theaters and passed on to DVDs.

    Ben
  • by ewg (158266) on Tuesday October 11, 2005 @05:39PM (#13768758)
    Everyone knows there's no such thing as hobbits. This jaw bone must be some wizard's trick.
  • Until you reach Middle Earth [taylorcustom.com]!
  • Very interesting Wikipedia article. They species name is their location.

    ahref=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homo_floresiens isrel=url2html-11801 [slashdot.org]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H omo_floresiensis>

    Even a picture of the skull
  • Actually, (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mliikset (869292)
    ...there is only more of the same information. Those who thought that the remains were of pathological anomalies continue to think the same. I think there was some difference in the stratas that the new jawbone was found, actually an older instance.

    What the microcephaly proponents fail to recognize that a stable population of pathological anomalies can't exist, once the pathology is widespread in a population it would cease to be an anomaly, at least among that population.

    Microcephaly as we know it medicall
    • We could be looking at an ancient burial ground, where generations of "cursed" were buried. Then again, those with the defect cold have been religious figures, "Blessed by the gods" in some way, and thus buried in holy ground.

      A few generations of an otherwise normal population choosing to bury their smaller dead in a specific locations is a likely explanation and expected given human religious tendencies.
      • Define "a few generations," please. From the article, it sounds like the specimen are spread out over about 80,000 years. I doubt that any one group with any particular traditions would last that long. Hell, there are few groups of modern people that have gone without change for more than 1,000 years, let alone 80,000.
  • Uh.. (Score:2, Funny)

    by StikyPad (445176)
    Don't tell anyone, but 20 years ago, I was hobbit-sized. I know, you wouldn't think it by looking at me, but it's true.
  • by Ungulate (146381) on Tuesday October 11, 2005 @06:10PM (#13769074)
    Funny, I was just reading about floresiensis last night. I was greatly intrigued by the fact that the islanders' oral history includes stories about monkey-like men that closely fit the description of floresiensis man. They maintain that they were still around after the Dutch arrived in the 16th century, until about 300 years ago when they got fed up with their hijinks and set out to kill them all. Apparently there were still sightings up until the 19th century.

    The most likely explanation seems to be that a population of h. erectus found itself on the island and, through island dwarfing, ended up at their diminutive height. I find the thought of sub-human hominids suriving until that recently both creepy and fascinating. More reading at wikipedia [wikipedia.org]
  • Almost all civilizations have oral or written records of giants and dwarves (trust me, LOTR is not a new idea). These, as most other legends, must have some sort of factual origin that has been lost over time. I find the argument that species 'shrink' (evolutionary time) in response to the stress of a closed ecological system just a little bit off since AFAIK it hasn't been proven.

    But all 'little men' fun arguments aside, I can't see why there couldn't have been species parallel to Homo sapiens sapiens (o

    • "Almost all civilizations have oral or written records of giants and dwarves (trust me, LOTR is not a new idea). These, as most other legends, must have some sort of factual origin"

      And almost all civilizations have some undead in their mythology. E.g., vampires. What's your theory about the factual origin of those? Are you telling me that the dead actually rose from their graves and preyed upon the living?

      Now seriously, at least the giants are actually _very_ easily explained by exaggeration. It's like the
    • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @05:47AM (#13771915) Journal
      Almost all civilizations also have oral or written records of dragons. Interestingly enough, their behaviour is usually very different, but their look is described in a very similar way. But factual origin? hardly...

      Perhaps dragons (and giants, and dwarves) are just parts of the collective subconsciousness, archetypes so old, they are shared shared by the entire humanity.

  • by Refrag (145266)
    Does this mean that The Lord of the Rings will become the new Bible?
  • by hotspotbloc (767418) on Tuesday October 11, 2005 @06:46PM (#13769353) Homepage Journal
    The Flying Spaghetti Monster [wikipedia.org] created the universe, starting with a mountain, trees and a midgit. This is clear proof the He was the basis of all intelligence and I demand His teachings be taught in all Kansas public schools.

    Don't get me started about the pirates ...

  • Idiots! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Roadkills-R-Us (122219) on Tuesday October 11, 2005 @06:47PM (#13769360) Homepage
    They found it in a *wet cave*...

    It *shrunk*.
  • by Julian Morrison (5575) on Tuesday October 11, 2005 @07:04PM (#13769518)
    ...don't put it on. Seriously. Bad things would happen.
  • Damn, dirty, tiny... (Score:3, Informative)

    by mtec (572168) on Tuesday October 11, 2005 @07:35PM (#13769729)
    apes!
  • by dhammabum (190105) on Tuesday October 11, 2005 @08:17PM (#13770025)
    I lived in Tonga for a couple of years in the 70's and there was a tale of very small people that were living in Tonga at the time the Polynesians arrived, at least on one island. They said these people were found on 'Ata Island (the southernmost island in the group). The new Tongans apparently gave them food initially, then for whatever reason decided to kill them off and blocked them in a cave. This is quite a similar story to that told on Flores Is. where the current discoveries have been made.

    The interesting bit is that this island is uninhabited as South American slavers came in the mid-1800s and captured all the males off the island. The King then had the women and children rescued and declared the island off limits. When I was there we tried to go to the island for a scientific survey but King Tupou Fa refused. The place is only visited by occasional fishermen.


  • I wonder... (Score:4, Informative)

    by foreverdisillusioned (763799) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @01:25AM (#13771299) Journal
    Could there be any possibility of finding any preserved DNA after 12,000 years (not very long, geologically speaking)? I wish this had happened in a colder climate, where there was some possibility of preservation by ice. I think it would be a singularly awesome occurance, perhaps a turning point for modern society, if a scientist took a cell from an extinct but SENTIENT primate species and cloned it, either with a gorilla or human mother.

    Call me cruel or evil if you must, but if I was a scientist presented with that opportunity, I would do it in a heartbeat. The moral, religious, and political rammifications would be tremendous... another creature besides ourselves capable of lucid communication, capable of abstract thought and rational logic. Likely less intelligent (on average) than Homo Sapiens and possibly possessing other differing desires and abilities, but unquestionably emotional and intelligent. How the hell would mainstream Christianity react? I would think that "mainstream" would have to be redefined, as many people would cling to old notions of humanity being special, unique, and alone while just as many would be unable to treat another intelligent being as a mere animal.

    Of course, the exact level of intelligence would be very important. Just how intelligent are they, as compared to us? As compared to chimps? What if they possess roughly same communication skills and intelligence as a chimp or gorilla, yet they look like us, have the same facial expressions as us, and possess the vocal cords necessary to form words? Gorillas and chimps are quite intelligent, and capable of significant levels of communication via sign language. I'm willing to bet that the major reason why they haven't been granted any legal rights is because they seem so unhuman. Give them a human looking body and the power of speech, and suddenly the situation for many people will not seem so cut and dry. Lord knows where our morality would go from there--maybe given a hundred years, those "freaks" over at PETA will get their wish and the entire animal kingdom will have rights, perhaps based on intelligence. I'm not saying I necessarily support such an idea, but it's mind-blowing to consider.

    Perhaps it's fascinating for me specifically because for the last 4 years I've worked extensively with the (moderately) mentally handicapped. It's very interesting to watch how they're treated by parents, doctors, coworkers, and fellow clients. In many respects they are given a high degree of self-determination, yet there are always more subtle attempts to change them into what we want them to be. The aspect I have the most problem with is prescribing medication for the sole purpose of surpressing libido. Ok, if the client is attacking women and fondling them that's one thing, but if wacking off too much and getting caught staring at women's chests and cutting out pictures of underwear models or even, heaven forbid, having consentual sexual relations with one another is a disease, I suspect that many of us here at /. have been "infected" at one time or another. But for these people, anti-depressants such as Prozac and Zoloft are prescribed for the SOLE purpose of supressing sexual desire. Oh sure, that's not what it's officially for, but staff openly talk about the real goal of putting a client on that med. The "depression" doesn't really exist until the client gets too horny for our director's taste, and the doctor mysteriously does NOT prescribe one of the many antidepressants out that have a lower impact on sexual function. And of course, no one is ever prescribed the antidepressant Wellbutrin, which has been shown to increase sexual desire and pleasure (as I can personally attest to) and would be otherwise appropriate for many of our more lethargic clients.

    I guess what I'm saying is that if we were forced to deal with a less intelligent and more primal version of ourselves, we would be forced to confront our more animalistic urges in a saner and more consistan
  • by master_p (608214) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @05:49AM (#13771921)
    The size of the bone found implies a Hobbit-sized race, not a Hobbit-like culture. The only thing we know so far is the size of those hominids. They did not live in a nice miniature village like the Shire; most probably they were primitive hunters, without even knowledge of agriculture.

    I don't see the big deal over their size, though. Have we forgotten that there are already very short tribes around the world (pigmeys, for example)? what makes the 'Hobbit' one different?
  • woohoo (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Servo (9177) <dstringf@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @06:25AM (#13771977) Journal
    Given how asians tend to be smaller in the first place, I don't see how this is all that exciting news. On top of that, nutrition and disease plays a huge part in height, so its entirely possible that these were not all that healthy of a group.

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