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Posted on Sunday, June 11 - 2006

" Copyright © ABC NORTH QUEENSLANDWhen the Australian Professor Mike Morwood led an archaeological dig on the island of Flores, Indonesia in 2003, he knew he was on to something big. But not even he could have imagined just how big the discoveries of the team would be.The unearthing of an..."

The skull of LB1

Copyright © ABC NORTH QUEENSLAND

When the Australian Professor Mike Morwood led an archaeological dig on the island of Flores, Indonesia in 2003, he knew he was on to something big. But not even he could have imagined just how big the discoveries of the team would be.The unearthing of an 18 000 year old adult skeleton, no bigger than a three-year-old child, with the brain the size of a grapefruit, is the most significant archaeological find in the last fifty years. The announcement of the discovery in October 2004 sent the anthropological world into a dizzy spin and continues to be the subject of intense debate amongst scientists the world over.Although nick-named after themythological character made famous in Tolkien's 'The Lord of The Rings'; the Hobbit-like humanoids are very closely related to modern humans.

The connection is so close, according to the team who made the discovery, that they declared them a new species of human: Homo Floresiensis. So far nine individual skeletons have been identified ranging in age from 100 000 years old to 12 000 years old. Along with the Homo Floresiensis the dig has produced the remains of dwarf elephants, giant rats, komodo dragons as well as remnants of stone tools. Many long held theories on the evolution of human kind have been challenged by the discovery, which has led some scientists to dispute the validity of the theory of a new species. Robert Martin, from the Field Museum in Chicago is one person who believes that the Hobbits are actually smallmodern humans who suffered microcephaly - a disease that results in a shrunken deformed brain. He claims that the tools found at the site could only have been made by modern humans with whom these little people must have lived. Professor Morwood dismisses these claims as "ignorant", saying, "We're dealing with a whole community at this site...so unless one's prepared to envisage a community of dwarfed modern human idiots existing at this sight for 80 000 years, then I think our explanation, our interpretation makes a lot more sense." While the exact origins of the Flores Hobbits are still a mystery, Professor Morwood and the team is confident that they will find all the answers they need when the digging continues in the coming months.

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