The Biology and Status of the Flores “Hobbit”: Species or Disease?


In 2004, a team of Australian and Indonesian archaeologists and paleoanthropologists reported their discovery of the skeleton of a tiny female human, with an ape-sized braincase and an estimated stature of only some 42 inches (106 cm) from the cave site of Liang Bua, on the Indonesian island of Flores (Nature 431: 1055-1061). The horizon that yielded this skeleton is dated to around 18,000 years ago. Other, more fragmentary fossils of equally small individuals have been recovered from the site.

A fierce debate has developed between those who think that the Liang Bua skeleton is a pathological modern human and those who think it represents a separate species, Homo floresiensis, which preserves traits inherited from more primitive members of the human genus. The statements linked below, written in preparation for the BU Dialogue on the Flores fossils, reflect this debate.

Statement by Dr. Fred H. Smith
Statement by Dr. Robert D. Martin

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