I just want to let you know about a new Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Homo floresiensis that reader Dermot C. called to my attention. As you may recall, new dating methods have shown that this 3.5-foot diminutive hominin died out about 50,000 years ago rather than the 12,000 originally posited, and arrived in Flores (Indonesia) between 700,000 and 1,000,000 years ago. Also, new specimens have been found, making it pretty clear that the original specimen wasn’t a malformed or diseased individual, but was a member of a real and very tiny hominin species. (Their brains were about the size of those in modern chimps.)
Their phylogenetic relationship to modern H. sapiens isn’t yet clear (they haven’t been able to get good DNA from the remains), but it is clear the species went extinct without leaving descendants, like the “robust” hominins in Africa. They may have well have been descendants of Homo erectus that evolved a small size for reasons unknown.
Here’s the skinny from Dermot’s email:
I thought your readers might be interested in this free MOOC:
The course concerns the discovery of Homo floresiensis, ‘the Hobbit’, discovered on Flores island in 2003. It started on 7th November but it is not too late to catch up. The aim of the course is to ‘discover the incredible world of ‘the Hobbit’ as modern archaeological science uncovers secrets hidden in time…Investigating a range of multidisciplinary approaches and techniques, we explore the contributions of modern archaeological science in challenging assumptions about human evolution and exposing secrets hidden in time.
This course has been developed by the Centre for Archaeological Science (CAS) at theUniversity of Wollongong in association with the Indonesian National Research Centre for Archaeology (ARKENAS), and Lakehead University, Canada.’
The course leader is Prof. Bert Roberts, the Director of the Centre for Archaeological Science at the University of Wollongong and an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow. He was one of the archaeologists involved in excavations where Homo floresiensis was discovered. The Educator is Professor Zenobia Jacobs, Director of the Luminescence Dating Laboratory at the University of Wollongong and an Australian Research Council Future Fellow. And the Mentor is Alyce Mason, an Educational Designer and researcher from the University of Wollongong.
The course lasts 4 weeks at 2 hours per week, although one can spend more time at it.
Anything for the Brits and Yanks to forget about Brexit and Trump!
Here’s a cast of a H. floresiensis cranium from Wikipedia (note the small brain case):
and where H. floresiensis remains were found.
If you ever get a chance to go to the Smithsonian’s Hall of Human Evolution in Washington D.C. stand next to the reconstructed skeleton of this species and see how incredibly tiny they were. No wonder they were called “hobbits”!
Here’s a reconstructioncompared to a modern human female: