Hobbit Wars Hot Up

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Hobbit wars hot up following an article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online 23 Aug 2006, and reported in ScienceNOW 21 Aug 2006, news@nature and Geotimes 25 Aug 2006. Indonesian anthropologist Teuku Jacob of Gadjah Mada University and colleagues have studied the skull and leg bones of the Homo floresiensis (nicknamed the "Hobbit") and have challenged the claim that the bones are from another human species. They compared the skull with a group of living people, known as the Rampasasa pygmies, who live in the same region as the cave where the "H. floresiensis" bones were found. These pygmies are not only small in overall stature, but some have receding chins and unusual pre-molar teeth – two of the features that the scientists who found the Hobbit bones claim show they should be classified as new human species. They also compared the left and right sides of the skull and the left and right leg bones and found they are asymmetrical, which they claim is a sign of disease, not evidence of a new species.

Australian anthropologist Peter Brown, one of the team who first studied the bones dismissed the new claims as "complete nonsense" and said the asymmetry can be explained by the fact the bones had been squashed and buried for thousands of years. Only one skull has been found so far and researchers need to compare several specimens before deciding whether unusual features are disease or normal. Colin Groves, another Australian anthropologist, is also unimpressed. He points out that lack of chin can only be assessed by studying bones without soft tissue, but the new study has relied on photos of living Rampasasa pygmies. A receding chin is not the same as complete absence of a chin. Other scientists also dispute the new study on the basis of the brain size and shape, and over the dating of the bones.

Editorial Comment: There is nothing like "hominid" bones to provoke arguments between scientists. The original studies of all of the bones indicate that "hobbits" had an ape sized head with an ape sized brain, and ape shaped limb bones with ape-like proportions to overall body size. However, there is no academic kudos to be gained from finding yet another extinct ape. As long as anthropologists ignore the Creator’s testimony that human beings are unique creations they will continue to make monkeys out of themselves by trying to make apes into people. (Ref. controversy, evolution, Indonesia)

Evidence News 30 August 2006

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