Homo Floresiensis: A Homesteader to Admire

homo floresiensis
I'm a tall person. With a very rare exception, I stand a good head or two taller than most other folks at any random cocktail party. Unlike The Hobbit from Bali, Homo Floresiensis. Flores might well be the ancestor of the solitary, independent homesteader.

I've never given much thought to how much I stand apart, though comments from strangers looking for something to start a conversation with have prompted contemplation. A word of advice: If you tell me I'm tall, don't be upset should I tell you how short you are. Observation of the obvious won't win you any points. With Homo Floresiensis, this may have happened quite a bit.

Homo Floresiensis

homo floresiensis caveWhat if there was a division of society based on physiology, instead of race or intelligence, where height above all else was the paramount attribute of choice? Anyone over six foot would be 'relocated.

Perhaps I would be sequestered to Baja California with most of the NBA and several west Asian Aryan-types to garden. Our gene-pool would be segregated from polluting 'normal' society. However, at 5 foot 8, Wendie would not be keeping me company.

It would be a place for the homesteader, where individuals would be free to evolve their own government, resources and physiology. What a concept.

In 2004, skeletal remains of an adult woman were found on the remote, Balinese island of Flores. What makes her remarkable was her size, only 3 feet tall. Recognized as a previously unknown development of pre-history humanoids, scientists labeled the remains Homo Floresiensis, or Flores Man, and have named the remains, the 'Hobbit.'

An Edit to Human Evolution

homo floresiensis
"To find that as recently as perhaps 13,000 years ago, there was another upright, bipedal—although small-brained—creature walking the planet at the same time as modern humans is as exciting as it was unexpected," said Peter Brown, a paleo-anthropologist at the University of New England in New South Wales, Australia. 

Brown is a co-author of the study describing the findings, which appeared in the October 2004 issue of the science journal Nature.

As a homesteader, I'm still on the fence about the potential for undiscovered species. The world is a vast place, much like her mother the universe, so linking pre-history evolution to our development is a give and take as far as the archeological and anthropological details are concerned. The science is still growing its knowledge base.

However, evidence of the levels of the Hobbit's sophistication surpassed her contemporary, Homo Erectus, primarily in the form of tools found near pygmy-elephant remains. The hand-worked stone implements of Homo Floresiensis are much more definitive than those associated with Erectus, whose tools where bulkier and designed for multi-use. 

Homo Floresiensis' tools were highly specialized, including spear and javelin spearheads, as well as scrapers and marrow 'extractors'... tools associated with Cro-Magnon development. 

Physiology of Homo Floresiensis

homo floresiensis skullAmazingly, the Hobbit's brain size was smaller than any pre-human ancestor, more than half the volume of Erectus. Homo Floresiensis' brain was no larger than a chimpanzee.

"It is totally unexpected," said Chris Stringer, director of the Human Origins program at the Natural History Museum in London. "To have early humans on the remote island of Flores is surprising enough. That some are only about a meter tall with a chimp-size brain is even more remarkable. That they were still there less than 20,000 years ago, and [that] modern humans must have met them, is astonishing."

Island of Flores, Bali

homo floresiensis
Not only has the size of the woman astonished the scientific community, but the geography of her habitat is incredible as well. Flores is a small island, not a place that would be identified as a possible location for the development of 'alternative' humanoid development. 

Though dwarfism is prevalent among isolated island communities, the technology base of modern man allows for a 'spread' of genetic breeding through travel. 18,000 years ago, this was not be the case.

The limiting geographic range suggests the physiology of the 'Hobbit' might derive from abnormal growth, perhaps even microcephaly. 'Mutation' through inbreeding certainly would have been a danger, as geologic evidence suggests a massive volcanic eruption sealed its fate 12,000 years ago, along with other unusual island species like the dwarf elephant species, stegodon

This theory, however, would place the age of the remains at roughly three-years old. The remains of the Homo Floresiensis woman, however, are estimated to be around eighteen-years-old based on the wear to the teeth as well as fusions in the skull.

"This finding really does rewrite our knowledge of human evolution," said Stringer.

Flores Man

homo floresiensisAlternate theories suggest Flores Man doesn't belong in the genus Homo at all, even if it was a contemporary to Erectus

But other explanations seem elusive, and this denial with the absence of counter-evidence is nothing new to the paleologic community. Early Java man was first thought to be an arthritic gibbon.

"I don't think anybody can pigeonhole this into the very simple-minded theories of what is human," says anthropologist Jeffrey Schwartz of the University of Pittsburgh. "There is no biological reason to call it Homo. We have to rethink what it is."

This much is clear. The Hobbit's teeth and skull show it was an adult, and the shape of the pelvis is female. The skull is wide like that of Homo Erectus. But the sides are rounder and the crown traces an arc from ear to ear. The lower jaw contains large, blunt teeth and roots much like an even older ancestor, Australopithecus Africanus

Flores Man Physiology Comparison

homo floresiensis
The eye sockets of Flores Man are large and round, but unlike other members of the Homo genus, it has hardly any chin or brow-line. The skeletal frame looks as if it walked upright, but the pelvis and the shinbone have primitive, even apelike features.

Certain bones from this precursor homesteader species' feet and hands have yet been found. Delicate artifacts found in the cave were described as "toy-sized" versions of stone tools made by Homo Erectus. They suggest that Flores Man retained intelligence and dexterity to flake small weapons with sharp edges, even if its body shrunk over time. Osteoporosis?

Whatever the case may be concerning how the Hobbit fits into the tree of human development, this much is certain. She comes from a branch that many scientists are nervous to shake. Who knows what else might fall out.

We love sharing our off the grid homesteading life with you all, and truly enjoy hearing from you. What do you think this study of the Bali Hobbit, Homo Floresiensis does for our understanding of human evolution? Is Flores Man a missing link or a side-show? Let us know by joining the conversation below, and don't forget to subscribe for daily homesteading goodness!