Small fossilized skeletons were discovered in 2003 on the Indonesian island of Flores. Resembling diminutive men, these “hobbits” (dubbed Homo floresiensis) were discovered among sophisticated tools. The remains were apparently not juveniles, but adults about three feet tall, with heads one third the size of an average modern man’s. The hobbits have presented several mysteries, including questions over their origins and relationship to other species.
Based partly on the belief that creatures with such small brains could not have been smart enough to make tools, many scientists have theorized that these were Homo sapiens with microcephaly, a disease characterized by insufficient development of the head. However, this was refuted in 2007 based on certain brain size and shape characteristics that microcephalics have and Homo floresiensis does not.1
Now researchers have offered even more evidence that these were diminutive, not diseased, people. They compared three-dimensional digital models of theoretical skulls (based on projections of what the cranial shape and size should be for a specimen this small) with the Flores skulls and found that the microcephaly interpretation does not match the data.2
If these ancients were not diseased humans, then what were they? The study, which appears in the Journal of Human Evolution, deduced that they were a separate species: “H. floresiensis was most likely the diminutive descendant of a species of archaic Homo, although the details of this evolutionary history remain obscure.”2
Undoubtedly, the obscurity of their “evolutionary history” results from an incomplete fossil transition series, which is the same problem that evolution has for every other basic living form.3 Moreover, the delegation of H. floresiensis as a separate species from H. sapiens, along with others like H. neanderthalensis and H. erectus, is not entirely based on observational science. Rather, these designations were conferred by scientists who studied differences in skull shapes and sizes (empirical science), and then filtered these observations through an evolutionary worldview (interpretative belief).
In the absence of an unbroken and comprehensive series of fossilized transitional forms, the evolutionary links between different forms of mankind—and between man and ape—are, and will continue to be, unsubstantiated. An outside source of information, one that would provide an authoritative framework to interpret these fossils, is needed in order to establish definitive answers. The eyewitness written accounts of early human history given in Scripture provide such data.
All of the specimens of the genus Homo thus discovered, as well as those yet to be discovered, are smoothly interpreted by a biblical worldview. According to this model, the various fossils represent either extinct or extant varieties of man. Human cranial features, especially the placement of the foramen magnum (the large hole for the spinal column) at the bottom of the skull and the orientation of the semicircular canals in the petrous portion of the temporal bone, are just the kinds of determinative markers that allow researchers to positively identify them as Homo, or man. H. floresiensis was indeed fully man, just an extinct, tiny variety.
The evolutionary dating given by the “hobbit’s” researchers adds more confirmation that H. floresiensis was not a missing link: “The specimens have skulls that resemble something that died a million years earlier, and other body parts reminiscent of our three-million-year-old human [ape-like] ancestors, yet they lived until very recently—contemporaries with modern humans.”4 Similarly, H. erectus, H. neanderthalensis, and other archaic H. sapiens were all contemporaries, as a meta-analysis of evolutionary dates reveals,5 further corroborating a biblical view of history.
- Falk, D. et al. 2007. Brain shape in human microcephalics and Homo floresiensis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 104 (7): 2513-2518.
- Baaba, K. L. and K. P. McNulty. Size, shape, and asymmetry in fossil hominins: The status of the LB1 cranium based on 3D morphometric analyses. Journal of Human Evolution. Article in press, posted online December 4, 2008.
- “This rapid diversification, known as the Cambrian explosion, puzzled Charles Darwin and remains one of the biggest questions in animal evolution to this day. Very few fossils exist of organisms that could be the Precambrian ancestors of bilateral animals, and even those are highly controversial.” Discovery of Giant Roaming Deep Sea Protist Provides New Perspective on Animal Evolution. Florida Atlantic University press release, December 4, 2008.
- "Hobbit" fossils represent a new species, concludes U of M anthropologist. University of Minnesota press release,December 17, 2008.
- Thomas, B. Neanderthal Men Were Modern Men. ICR News. Posted on icr.org December 18, 2008, accessed December 24, 2008.
* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer.
Article posted on December 31, 2008.