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The Pleistocene Meets Middle Earth: The Significance of the Indonesian Hobbits in Human Evolution
May 12, 2012
Matthew Tocheri, Paleoanthropologist at the Human Origins Program, Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History
Dr. Tocheri provides an overview of the scientific debates behind the controversial human species, Homo floresiensis, the so-called ‘hobbits’ of human evolution.
First discovered in 2003, these small-bodied and small-brained hominins are thought to have gone extinct approximately 17,000 years ago on the Indonesian island of Flores. Are the ‘hobbits’ a new species previously unrecognized on the human family tree? Or are they modern humans who suffered from a genetic disease?
Dr. Tocheri believes the wrist bones provide the answer to these questions. In this presentation, he leads a fascinating journey from the caves of Flores, Indonesia, to his laboratory where 3D laser scans of hobbit wrist bones showed that they were nothing at all like wrist bones found in modern humans and Neanderthals. More importantly, the findings supported the conclusion that hobbits are indeed a branch of early human and not deformed modern humans.
Dr. Tocheri also discusses the on-going excavations on Flores that are aimed at learning more about this enigmatic member of the human family tree and its relationship to our own species, Homo sapiens.