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Ape Folk

23 February 2010

The Guardian and The Observer, soulmates in green politics, have a simlar choice of story regarding evolution of humanity. See online version at www.guardian.co.uk 21st February … basically, it concerns the discovery 6 years ago of a small human species on an Indonesian island and this has caused all kinds of new ideas to promulgate. It is seriously being suggested that Hobbits preceded Homo Erectus in the journey Out of Africa – and went on to colonise other parts of the world. Australian scientists on Flores excavated a huge limestone cave system and found the original skull of the Hobbit – three feet tall with a brain the size of an orange. It is now being argued that the Hobbit resembles Lucy, the so called grandmother of humanity, unearthed from the African Rift Valley, and likewise had a small brain but only stood 1m tall (a little shorter than the Hobbit). These specimens are closely related to the apes, it is being argued, so we now have an ape-like species interceding between apes and the more human like Homo Erectus. The Hobbit might fill a gap – the problem is that it survived until just prior to the Holocene. Hobbits seem to have had short legs and what are called ‘long flapper feet’ which would have made walking long distances decidedly difficult – so how did they travel all the way from Africa to SE Asia? One idea that was aired is by rafting on huge waves – tsunamis washing them away and dumping them hundreds of miles on the opposite end of the Indian Ocean. The hands of the Hobbits were ape-like, it is now being argued – curious how traits are emphasized to fit a theory, and their brains were little bigger than a chimpanzee. It is hard to imagine their brains being any bigger considering the size of their bodies but the press release also notes that some of the Hobbits tools were dated over a million years in age – suggesting, it is claimed, a long period of isolation in which time they could have evolved diminutively. Another interpretation is that the dating methodology used was faulty as the bones of the Hobbit place him firmly in the Late Pleistocene, 17,000 years ago. Of course, it is possible the site will produce further evidence of the Hobbits – much earlier than the example unearthed from debris on the floor of the cave. According to Chris Stringer, author of best selling book Homo Britannicus, there is a thick layer of volcanic ash above the most recent remains in the cave suggesting  they died out as a result of a volcano. We may also note that the last Ice Age came to an end at roughly this time, coinciding with a long cool period defined as the Oldest Dryas event. The demise of the Hobbits on Flores coincided with great changes in the natural world, which included the melting of ice sheets in NE America and NW Europe, and distinct and varied environmental changes in Indonesia and Australia.  

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