Lucy’s Children: The Hobbit Enigma

October 17, 2008

CBC’s “The Nature of Things” premiered a documentary called The Hobbit Enigma last night. I’ve covered this topic briefly in a series of posts I called Pygmy vs. Hobbit. The documentary was awesome…. at least for an off-by-one nerd like me. 

“The Hobbit” is a set of hominid remains found on the Indonesian island of Flores. These remains have been dated to be 18,000 years old which means they were contemporary with modern humans. 

The question is whether this is a completely new species (Homo floresiensis) or a subspecies/variant of an existing known hominid including possibly ourselves. You can find more details about the Homo florensiensis debate on Wikipedia. 

The evidence demonstrating that the small size was not due to microcephaly was interesting, however, ruling out a single pathology does not rule out ALL pathologies. The most pursuasive evidence supporting a new species was the demonstration that the carpal bone system matches early hominids or chimps.

The documentary also suggested that The Hobbit may be Australopithecus, that is, the same species as Lucy

The implications of this debate are far reaching. It is not simply a matter of adding a new species to the Hominid family tree, but one that challenges the “out of Africa” assumption. The head scratcher is how this species got to Flores. We know Homo erectus (much earlier) and us (Homo sapien sapien) were in this area, so The Hobbit being subspecies/variant of one of these two species does not challenge any long standing assumptions. If The Hobbit is Australopithecus or something completely new it is means we have to go back to the evolutionary drawing board.

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3 Responses to “Lucy’s Children: The Hobbit Enigma”

  1. Eugene Says:

    I am seaching for some idea to write in my blog… somehow come to your blog. best of luck. Eugene

  2. Andrew Fildes Says:

    ‘Flo’ was possibly the same genus as Lucy, not species. They are, after all, separated by 3.5 million years!
    The trapezoid bone evidence is compelling but the brain shape is more so, I think. There is no pathology known that will produce such a size AND shape.

  3. Robin Says:

    I saw a documentary that matched the pelvic bones of Lucy with the bones of Flo and they matched. Hence, the idea that they come from the same species. But if true that would poke huge holes in the evolutionary theory. How could a species in 3.5 million years have very little evolutionary change? Does this mean that Lucy is no longer considered a “missing link” to modern man now that they have found one of her “relatives” that is far younger?


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