Monday, March 07, 2005

MSN Health & Fitness - Inside the Head of the 'Hobbit'

MSN Health & Fitness - Inside the Head of the 'Hobbit':
Skull study boosts theory tiny fossil was distinct human species


THURSDAY, March 3 (HealthDay News) -- When she died 18,000 years ago on what is now the Indonesian island of Flores, the tiny 30-year-old female known only as LB1 had grown to what scientists believe was probably an average adult height for her kind: 3-feet, 4-inches.

And while her head and brain measured just a third of the size of modern humans, in the soil around her bones anthropologists found signs of intelligence and a primitive culture: artifacts such as charred animal bones, charcoal, and crude stone tools.

The unexpected discovery last fall of Homo Floresiensis -- quickly dubbed 'hobbits' by Tolkien-loving anthropologists -- sent shock waves through the world of anthropology and evolutionary science.

While the paleoanthropologists who found LB1 put forth a theory that she represented a hitherto unknown strain of hobbit-sized human ancestors, others soon countered that she might simply be an ancient medical anomaly -- a microcephalic ('small-head') individual, her tiny head being the result of genetics or illness.

Research published in the March 4 issue of Science is helping put that theory to rest, however.

Detailed comparisons of the skulls of LB1, other hominins (human-like species) and chimpanzees strongly suggest Homo Floresiensis is not a random microcephalic, but instead a distinct -- and now extinct -- species."

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