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Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Face of the Hobbit

Real-Life 'Hobbit' Face Revealed


Date: 10 December 2012 Time: 09:35 AM ET

 
 
Researchers have revealed what the face of a controversial ancient human nicknamed "the Hobbit" might have looked like.
"She's not what you'd call pretty, but she is definitely distinctive," said anthropologist Susan Hayes, a senior research fellow at University of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia. The female doesn't have feminine-looking big eyes and she's lacking much of a forehead.

With a background in forensic science, Hayes was able to flesh out the face of the 3-foot (90 centimeter) tall, 30-year-old female based on remains that were uncovered in the Liang Bua cave on the remote Indonesian island of Flores in 2003. To come up with this facial depiction, Hayes uploaded information from 3D imaging scans of the skull into a computer graphic program and also looked at portraits by paleo-artists of the Hobbit, finding these earlier interpretations were skewed toward monkey features; her examination, meanwhile, suggested modern features were more accurate, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The 18,000-year-old skeleton, officially known as Homo floresiensis, gets its nickname from its squat stature. The Hobbit would have weighed between 66 and 77 pounds (30 and 35 kilograms). Since the discovery, scientists have debated whether the specimen actually represents an extinct species in the human family tree, perhaps a diminutive offshoot of Homo erectus, a 1.8-million-year-old hominid and the first to have body proportions comparable to those of modern Homo sapiens. [See Images of Homo Floresiensis]

 
The path Hayes took to reach her facial approximation.
CREDIT: University of Wollongong
Critics have argued that the remains could have belonged to a human with microcephalia, a condition characterized by a small head, short stature and some mental retardation. But a 2007 study — which revealed that the Hobbit's brain was about one-third the size of a modern adult human's brain — found that its brain region ratios were inconsistent with those characteristic of microcephalia. "In our view we dispensed at that point with the microcelpahy hypothesis," said Florida State University anthropologist Dean Falk, in 2009 when a skeleton cast of H. floresiensis went on public display for the first time at Stony Brook University on Long Island. "It's not just that their brains are small; they're differently shaped. It's its own species."
Also in 2007, work by Matthew Tocheri, an anthropologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., and colleagues found the female Hobbit's wrist bones matched, in shape and orientation, those of non-human apes; they looked much different from the wrist bones of Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) and modern humans, also pointing to a new species.
The Hobbit face was unveiled at the Australian Archaeological Conference being held from Dec. 9-13 at the University of Wollongong.
Hayes, who prefers the term "facial approximation" to "facial reconstruction" for her work, said she was pleased with results.
"She's taken me a bit longer than I'd anticipated, has caused more than a few headaches along the way, but I'm pleased with both the methodological development and the final results," the researcher said in a statement.
Her work has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
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While I applaud Susan Hayes' attempt, it seems to me she has missed something.

This ius the midface area of the face on the Hobbit skull, the part sometiimes refered to as the "Mask". It is used in some systems of classifiucation because it is an area that has little adaptive stress to change and remains unaltered in several lineages over long periods of time.

 This is Australopithecus afarensis, an early and rather primitive Australopithecine.
The Mask area of the bridge of the nose, eye sockets and the shape of the bony structures
around them is much the same in all of the Australopithecines,
 and is also much the same in the Flores Hobbit
 
Homo habilis, an advanced species of Australopithecus, the male is on the Left and the female is on the Right
 Homo erectus, the next step us: our own genus with a much larger braincase. The face however remains very similar in this species.
 

The shape of the facial "Mask" area is most like Homo habilis, and most like the female of the species in this case.
 


Comparing the Hobbit facial Mask area with all of the others

Comparing the area with early "Archaic Homo sapiens" and the shapes are much less similar. this is mostly because the braincase is so much larger and higher that the vertical and the temple area does not force so much of a "Gabled roof" effect to the eyesockets at about where the brow ridges start.
 

3 comments:

  1. I am sort of skeptical about this depiction, and I have seen that Darren Naish has said the same on twitter. I just think that as evidence has surfaced which points to Homo Floresiensis as possibly being an australopithecine, I doubt it looked like as human as the reconstruction depicts it as.

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  2. I would have to say that just looking at the skull, I do NOT see modern human anatomy, I see subhuman anatomy. It could go either way for Homo habilis or a dwarfed Homo erectus at this point-but definitely somewhere in that category. BTW, the jaws and teeth are also very much like Homo erectus.

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  3. thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete

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