Hobbit feud: scientists argue over mysterious bones





The setting was a hidden island filled with pint-size men who feasted on pygmy elephants and battled dragons. The story of paleontology's "Hobbits," the extinct human species called Homo floresiensis, packs plenty of drama.
But the 2003 discovery by an Australian-Indonesian of the undersize bones inside Liang Bua cave on the Indonesian island of Flores has long also suffered from a modern-day human rivalry. Add in the scientific back-story — a five-year feud over the whether the original inhabitants of Flores were actually a separate human species — and you have enough material for a novel.

The latest chapter of this story comes in the next Journal of Human Evolution, which boasts four reports concerning the hobbits— five years after discovery was first disclosed in the journal Nature. "Here we report the discovery, from the Late Pleistocene of Flores, Indonesia, of an adult hominin," wrote the authors of that 2004 paper in the formal language of scientists declaring a new species. ("Hominin" is what the cool kids among paleontologists say instead of "hominids" now, or what reporters call "human species." )

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