A Big Debate on Little People: Ancient Species or Modern Dwarfs?





New discoveries in a cave on the Indonesian island of Flores, notably another jawbone, appear to give additional support to the idea that a separate species of little people new to science and now extinct lived there as recently as 12,000 years ago.

But a vigorous minority of skeptical scientists were unmoved by the new findings. They contend that the skeletal remains are more likely to be deformed modern human beings, not a distinct species.


The group of Australian and Indonesian researchers who announced the first findings a year ago and proclaimed the new species Homo floresiensis describe the additional bones in a report to be published tomorrow in the journal Nature.

They said the bones were fragments of nine individuals of unusually small stature, little more than three feet tall, and, judging by one skull, with brains the size of a chimpanzee's. The newly discovered lower jaw was almost identical to one previously found, except that it appeared to be 3,000 years younger.

"We can now reconstruct the body proportions of H. floresiensis with some certainty," the scientists, led by Michael J. Morwood and Peter Brown, both of the University of New England in Australia, said in the report.



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