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Compelling evidence demonstrates that 'Hobbit' fossil does not represent a new species of hominid

CHICAGO -- What may well turn out to be the definitive work in a debate that has been raging in palaeoanthropology for two years will be published in the November 2006 issue of Anatomical Record.

The new research comprehensively and convincingly makes the case that the small skull discovered in Flores, Indonesia, in 2003 does not represent a new species of hominid, as was claimed in a study published in Nature in 2004. Instead, the skull is most likely that of a small-bodied modern human who suffered from a genetic condition known as microcephaly, which is characterized by a small head.

"It's no accident that this supposedly new species of hominid was dubbed the 'Hobbit;'" said Robert R. Martin, PhD, Curator of Biological Anthropology at the Field Museum and lead author of the paper. "It is simply fanciful to imagine that this fossil represents anything other than a modern human." The new study is the most wide-ranging, multidisciplinary assessment of the problems associated with the interpretation of the 18,000-year-old Flores hominid yet to be published. The authors include experts on:

  • scaling effects of body size, notably with respect to the brain: Dr. Martin and Ann M. MacLarnon, PhD, School of Human & Life Sciences, Roehampton University in London;
  • clinical and genetic aspects of human microcephaly: William B. Dobyns, PhD, Department of Human Genetics, University of Chicago; and
  • stone tools: James Phillips, PhD, Departments of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Field Museum.
This is just one of four separate research teams that have recently published evidence indicating concluding that the Flores hominid is far more likely to be a small-bodied modern human suffering from a microcephaly than a new species derived from Homo erectus, as was claimed in the original Nature paper.

Significantly, the second most recent publication to conclude that the "Hobbit
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Contact: Greg Borzo
gborzo@fieldmuseum.org
312-665-7106
Field Museum
9-Oct-2006


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