12 October, 2005

mathach vi geven? nostach vi 'wilith?

Excitement followed by scepticism arose last year, when scientists discovered what they suspected of being a new type of hominid, which had lived less than 20,000 years ago on islands in Indonesia. Standing just a metre tall and with a brain the size of a grapefruit, the remains were proclaimed by the paleontogists who discovered them as a new species within the Homo genus (of which, of course, modern-humans are the only surviving example). The media and the mindlessmunkey alike were thrilled with the notion of real scientific evidence that Halflings (hobbits, even!) had actually walked the earth just a few millenia ago.

However doubt was cast by scientists such as Teuku Jacob (everybody: BOO! HISS!) who suggested it was not in fact a new species, but merely the skeleton of a deformed pygmy (the insult!). Jacob then "borrowed" the bones in order to conduct his own (unauthorised) "research". As time passed, he proved extremely reluctant to return the remains to the scientists who had discovered them... and when they finally were returned, the bones had been horrendously damaged. Paleontologist Tim White said of the damage caused by Jacob and his team: "The equivalent in the world of art would be somebody slashing the Mona Lisa and then trying to fix it with chewing gum."

But the story has a happy ending (or, at least, continuation...). An Australian-led research team has
just announced the unearthing of at least nine more specimens of the creature - now widely accepted as a new species: Homo floresiensis - on the island of Flores, between Java and Timor in Indonesia. The discovery of so many examples of this small statured, small brained creature - and from a time period spanning up to 80,000 years - renders the "deformed pygmy" theory extremely doubtful.

So rejoice, lovers and dreamers ~ it seems Halflings were real indeed. Let us put flowers in our hair, comb our hairy feet and merrily dance the night away... Hurrah!


A reconstruction of what H.floresiensis may have looked like. (I guess rhinoplasty wasn't around 18,000 years ago).

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