The Fossil Find
Comparison of an adult Homo floriensis skull
with a Modern skull roughly to scale
Wire story about Homo floriensis or Flores Woman, Scientists Discover Prehistoric Hobbit.
Oct 27, 2004 — The remains of a new dwarf human species have been found on the Indonesian Island of Flores . The skeleton of this new species was found in a limestone cave and the miniature size of the adult female surprised veteran scientists. This new species was barely three feet tall as an adult and their body structure resembled older, ancestral forms of man. The size of the small skull and the tiny brain contained within also amazed scientists. Adding to the surprise, the 3-foot tall female was dated back to only 18,000 years ago making it contemporary with modern man on the island. The discovery calls into question assertions about when man gained control of the planet from the other lines of human ancestors. The find promises to rewrite human evolution and can only suggest a complexity in human evolution that up to now had only been hinted a Homo floriensis is believed to be the surviving members of an archaic group that was related to Homo erectus. Homo erectus is an older hominid species that is thought to be ancestral to modern human beings. Reasonably intelligent Homo erectus was a very successful form having mastered both fire and toll use. There were even suggestions of the beginning of culture among certain Homo erectus populations.
About a half million years ago this population on Flores became isolated from the mainland population of Homo erectus. Having been relegated to this relatively small island the small band of Homo erectus was subject to strong island evolutionary forces. The small island meant there were significantly reduced food resources for the troop and the Homo erectus population evolved in response to the rigorous demands of their new island home. Natural selection favored a people of smaller stature and even smaller brains. Consequently the Homo erectus population evolved into the archaic dwarf form, Homo floresiensis, that was recently found in the Liang Bua caves on Flores. They occupied the island up until 13,000 years ago and there is the distinct possibility they were still alive when the Dutch colonists arrived on Flores four hundred years ago. This small population survived until recently while the remaining Homo erectus population on the mainland either evolved into modern humans or became long extinct.
Scientists are surveying Flores in hopes of making more fossil discoveries while ignoring the controversy of the previous finds. Other researchers are hoping that deep in the Indonesian jungle there remains a small troop of Homo floresiensis still surviving in their primordial home awaiting discovery by modern humans. This is where the novel “Flores Girl, The Children God Forgot” begins.
The Fossil Puzzle
To trying to discern the human family tree is similar to putting a large puzzle together and trying to determine the overall picture from just a handful of pieces. If we assume 5 million years of human evolution, with a generation being equal to 20 years then the puzzle consists of almost 250,000 pieces. So far we found maybe a 100 major fossils, that is a hundred pieces of the 250,000 piece puzzle. To make matters even more vexing we keep finding additional puzzle pieces that may not even belong to our puzzle or at some point are extraneous to the overall puzzle. How many distinct species have made up the human evolutionary tree? Only further research and time will tell! That's why finding six individual skeletons for Homo floriensis is such a significant find!