Hobbit Like Humans Show Indonesia Was "Middle Earth"
Northern Daily Leader - Moora ^ | 1-15-2007 | Anna Henderson

Monday, 15 January 2007

Hobbit like humans show Indonesia was "middle earth"

Anna Henderson

In a world first, a book detailing the discovery of a lost species of hobbit-like people who lived on a remote tropical Indonesian island less than 20,000 years ago was launched in Armidale in northern NSW on Saturday.

According to research completed by University of New England Professor, Mike Moorwood, the artefacts his group unearthed during a 2003 archaeological dig on Flores Island suggest a kind of "middle earth" existed there, with metre-high humans hunting miniature elephants, giant rodents and Komodo dragons.

Professor Moorwood wrote "The Discovery of the Hobbit" about the Liang Bua limestone caves on Flores Island in consultation with colleague Penny Van Oosterzee. The Armidale-based project included a team of Australian and Indonesian specialists and was facilitated through the local Flores community.

The book details the existence of an ancient group of people, "a previously unsuspected, tiny species of human living on a remote island in east Indonesia, and overlapping considerably in time with us," and explains the modern day politics that have surrounded the breakthrough.

The near complete preserved skeleton found by the team was affectionately known as "The Hobbit" because it bore striking similarities to JRR Tolkien's famous characters in Lord of the Rings.

The bones are thought to be those of a Homo Floresiensis, a hairless adult female about one metre in height with a head the size of a grapefruit, long neck and arms, a flat nose, large teeth and no chin, a previously unknown human species.

Homo Floresiensis was a major international evolutionary find, sending shockwaves through the scientific community across the world with far reaching potential historical, religious, social and biological implications.

The international media response was frenzied with Professor Moorwood and his colleagues fielding hundreds of calls for interviews daily, gaining coverage across the globe.The authors describe the flurry of media activity in the book; "This was a scientific discovery being talked about in villages, towns and urban centres everywhere. It was a topic of conversation in beauty salons and barbershops, school and university staffrooms and every type of workplace imaginable."

The revelation of a human with small brain and dwarfed feature was made more groundbreaking by the complex tools found in the same area of the excavated site. The existence of these implements suggested the species was able to hunt, use fire and even developed a language many years before the characteristics of modern human civilisation.

Professor Moorwood said the implications were "far-reaching" and "staggering" because if correct they showed brain size may not be the predicator of intelligence.

The find was not without controversy and the legitimacy of the claims was put into question by scientists around the world. The evidence flies in the face of much accepted research into the evolution of the modern human.

Claims that a group of Indonesian academics hijacked and sabotaged the bones to conceal the truth of the discovery are all documented in the book along with the arguments of many of the critics.

The authors welcome the response of the cynics but have used the book to reveal their first-person account of the discovery.

"Skepticism and rigour in assessing new findings and claims are fundamental in science, but so are objectivity, an open mind and the capacity to take on board the unexpected," Professor Moorwood said.