This week’s lectures have focused on several different early ancestors to our modern Homo Sapiens, from archaic H. Sapiens, to the older H. Habilis and everything that came in-between. However, we did learn that there were an interesting few compared to the rest – Homo Neanderthalensis and Homo Floresiensis. The similarities between Neanderthals and humans is astonishing, and DNA analysis has shown some interbreeding in the past. However, the really interesting case is with the species Homo Floresiensis. Learning about them this week has definitely been the most interesting to me because of how different they were to the others of its time, and how long they managed to survive for over fifty-thousand years on their small island.
Homo Floresiensis is also known by another name, one that people may have heard before, they are referred to as “hobbits”. These hobbits usually stood around three feet tall, meaning they were very short in their stature. Since they lived on the island it is thought that they experienced evolutionary dwarfism which made them to be very small. Despite being short, they had both features similar to humans and to the other primitive species. Their primitive features included long arms, un-arched feet, and small brains to name a few. The remains of this species was only found in one location, and that is on the island of Flores in Indonesia. What intrigued me most was that these hobbits had a small brain (385-417ccs), yet they were also found in association with stone tools that were dated back to about 1.1 million years ago. This was a very unexpected find because the typical thought is that small brained species were not capable of the thought process to create tools even if they were simple and of the Oldowan style.
The discovery of the species back in 2004 has been very important because it lets us know that this region of the planet was populated for a whole lot longer than what was previously thought. Living in isolation, having small brains and size, using tools, and the fact that they left Africa isn’t the only surprise that scientists were left with. They also have a couple of different theories on how this isolated, long lasting species suddenly disappeared. One of the theories is that a nearby volcano erupted, and coated everything in volcanic ash, suffocating them out. The other, more popular, theory is that the region where they lived was taken over by the more modern homo sapiens, and they wiped them out. Homo Floresiensis has left many questions for anthropologists to answer and to learn more about as they continue doing more digs. This species have already caused scientist to rethink how brain size correlates to the usage of tools, how evolution can adapt to certain circumstances, overall the behavior associated with their apparent organized and regular hunting, the reconsideration of how early Homo Sapiens migrated out of Africa, and how species differentiated. While Neanderthals look similar to us and had so much in common with us, we can also learn so much by studying a branch of us that is not so similar, like Homo Floresiensis.