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Author Topic:   Homo floresiensis
Andya Primanda
Inactive Member


Message 91 of 213 (168841)
12-16-2004 7:19 AM


To EvC only: A translated comment from Teuku Jacob
This is my unauthorized translation of an article in Kompas (an Indonesian national newspaper), 15 December 2004, written by Prof. Teuku Jacob as a reaction to recent attention towards his actions. Just to give the other side of the story.

-----
Kompas, 15 December 2004

Conflict from Flores: Storm in a Teacup

Teuku Jacob

In the last two months, the international media had been clamouring over Flores man, acclaimed as a new species and considered as the most important human fossil discovery in the last 50 years.

The news had been so spectacular, for it was announced in Nature, a prominent scientific journal based in London. Newspaper, radio, and television journalists pounced at the announcement and added sensational bits to the story. For the sake of publicity the Australian scientists disregard their government's travel warning.

The discovery comes from archaeological excavations in the limestone cave of Liang Bua ('Cold Cave') in west Flores by a joint Indonesian--Australian team from the Indonesian Centre of Archaeological Research and the University of New England, under the coordination of Prof. Soejono and Dr. Morwood. The former is a senior Indonesian prehistorical archaeologist and the latter is an Australian expert of prehistoric cave paintings. The fossils (subfossils) were studied directly by Australian physical anthropologist Dr. Brown and indirectly by English palaeoanthropologist Dr. Stringer, from data sent by Brown.

Their conclusion from one studied specimen is to propose a new species, "Homo floresiensis", which had close affinities with Homo habilis of 3--4Ma (mega-annum, millions of years) which lived in East Africa. In the proposed evolutionary tree, "H. floresiensis" is the direct descendant of H. habilis and underwent evolutionary insular dwarfing, hence its small head, half the size of the chimpanzee brain, and small stature of 1 metre. It is capable of making stone tools in the form of flakes and blades. There are several designations for its antiquity (13Ka, 18Ka, 36Ka, and 95Ka; Ka=kilo-annum, thousands of years), obtained by several dating methods. A lot of experts doubt the reliability of the OSL method.

Therefore it is no surprise that palaeoanthropologists, archaeologists, anatomists, anthropologists and Quarternary geologists were shocked. Creationists, those who were against the theory of evolution and holding on to their literal interpretation of the Bible (Protestant creationists) and the Quran (Islamic creationists) used the opportunity to launch an attack to the evolutionists, whom they consider to interpret the finding by their own whim.

The emerging scepticism is not without reason. There are seven skeletons discovered (probably more, since there are other unprepared bones in the matrix), but the discoverers had only studied one of them to make their conclusions. The LB1 skeleton was designated as the holotype, the hypodigm over which the paradigm stands. Why was it compared against H. habilis specimens that is so far separated from it in time and space? Why not compare it with other findings from Liang Toge, Liang Momer, or Liang Panas (other cave sites in Flores)? Is evolution reversible: can the brain get smaller, and then larger again?

Does the similarities with Homo erectus imply a close affinity with the mentioned species? Is it not a case of microencephaly (small brain) causing the forehead to be not filled? The pentagonal shape of the skull implies a small cerebellum; is this not caused by an underdevelopment of the cerebral skin and cerebellar parts?

Is micrognathy (reduction of jaw) not the cause of the unreduced dentition and the unprotruding lower part of the mandible? The dentition clearly shows that the specimen belongs to Homo sapiens, with features such as agenesis (unrooted), rotation and close-packing of the teeth, whilst archaic features are not shown.

The Laboratory of Bio- and Palaeoanthropology at Universitas Gajah Mada has worked together with the Indonesian Centre of Archaeological Research since the 1960s. Palaeoanthropological materials were usually sent to Yogyakarta and archaeological finds sent to Jakarta. The cooperation went well all the time without any disturbance. Later a radiometry laboratory was built in Bandung. Skeletons from archaeological digs sent to Yogyakarta comes from all over the islands, from Sumatera to Irian.

The Yogyakarta lab focuses on Middle Pleistocene human fossils although there are some older and younger material. We kept almost a third of all H. erectus fossils in the world, and many people earned their degrees studying them here. However, not many Indonesians are interested because this field is outcompeted by faster tracks to materialistic success.

Researchers from the Yogyakarta lab has not actually been involved with the Liang Bua excavation. The author had once done some research on fossil humans from Flores caves stored in the Netherlands, which are the discoveries of Pater Verhoeven at the 1950s, and colleagues from the Yogyakarta lab once studied specimens from Liang Bua, excavated by Dr. Soejono from 1978 to 1989. The involvement of the Yogya lab with the 2003--2004 Liang Bua discoveries began when before Ramadan of 1424 H Prof Soejono asked for the team to study the LB1 skull. I was ill and bedridden at that time, but from the photo shown the skull appeared like an infrahuman primate; however it was still partly encased in its matrix and not photographed by anthropological standards. In July this year, Prof Soejono approached us again, asking to collect the discoveries, and the head of the Centre of Archaeological Research would provide funds for transport. I agree that younger and hard-won researchers should get the opportunity to study the new findings, instead of leaving it to foreign researchers.

There is some irony when an Australian expert, whom Prof. Soejono had only known for several years, asked him whether the author, whom Prof. Soejono had known for 40 years, is can be trusted. That chap needs to look into the mirror because the Yogya lab has been deceived three times.

Australian journalists report that the Australian researchers were unhappy with the fossils being taken to Yogyakarta. Their counterparts also dislike the idea of the study being based in Yogyakarta. Foreign journalists, especially Australian, were informed, and I was barraged by cynical, na´ve, and conspiracy-accusing questions concerning the acquisition of the bones: whether it will be returned, will it be worth studying, would other people be allowed to see it, whether I was the only person disagreeing with its designation as a new species, why it is not studied in Jakarta, whether this is a turf war between scientists, and others. It should be noted that there are also many knowledgeable and objective people among the foreign journalists.

Some of the questions show their shallow understanding of the field. Some does not understand the difference between archaeology and palaeoanthropology. Others thought that palaeoanthropological studies do not need supporting material as facilities for reconstruction and comparative material such as ape and modern human skeletons, fossils, relevant literature, and others.

Threats and intimdation, even bribery and pressure will not make our Yogyakarta team budge. Research funding does not entitle that the donors may put their noses into the internal affairs of a country. There is no 'deputy sheriff' of archaeology for South East Asia that can push people around. I know that archaeological digs are prohibited in Australia because the native Australians consider their ancestors' graves as sacred, and many early findings had been reburied (I once was asked for help concerning this matter), therefore Australian archaeologists (which is continually produced) are forced to wander off to South East Asia (which is rich in ancient artefacts) and the south Pacific; so the turf war, if there is any such thing, is actually a turf conquest by latter-day conquistadors.

If not for the long-term good relationship with the Centre of Archaeological Research, the Yogya team is content with our H. erectus fossil collection. Many foreign students had studied at the Yogya laboratorium before; therefore the accusation that our collection is off-limits is very upsetting.

Since the fossils are now being studied it is obvious that it cannot be anywhere else; it should not be passed around. The loan is for research purposes and I respects the terms, which also specifies that it cannot be displayed at will. Important fossils are not normally shown off to every passing tourist; even research postgraduate students need recommendation from their professors to gain access. Important collections need curators that know how to take care of fossils and who should be allowed to study them. Those foreign journalists might want to try and ask if they can see and get their hands on human fossils stored in Western institutions.

To get a balanced view, we should not just read Australian papers but inquire other sources. I received many phone calls, facsimiles, e-mails from around the world, including some from Australia which agrees with my opinion.

There is one Australian who wanted to force us to return all archaeological human remains back to the Centre for Archaeological Research. These are quite a large lot, because it would include collections dating back to 1963. and they took a lot of space. See how he tries to pressurize us, claiming that he would get the Australian government involved.

About the Liang Bua bones, our preliminary conclusions are as follows. Maybe two of them were actual insular dwarfs, as the dwarf Stegodon timorensis. At least one suffers from primary microcephaly, with microcrany, microencephaly, and micrognathy, which caused mental retardation, a disruption in brain growth especially on the forehead and cerebellum, giving a passing resemblance to H. erectus and H. ergaster skulls.

The cranial capacity seems to be larger than what had been announced; we also obtained a larger height estimate than 106cm. I presume the Liang Bua fossils are related to the Liang Toge skull, which was considered a proto-Negrito by Verhoeven (although I do not agree with Verhoeven's designation).

Establishing a new taxon is not easy. New species must be proposed on the basis that it is a different morphological and biological complex from other taxa, therefore implying reproductive isolation. Paleopathology remains an open option; other factors such as geochronology, archaeostratigraphy, and palaeodemography should also be considered.

In closing, do not consider the discovery of the dwarf Flores man as irrelevant. There are microcephalic fossils from thousands and hundreds of years ago discovered in Europe and South America.

The whole story of the Liang Bua findings had been blown out of proportion, creating a storm in a teacup. Prof. Tjia from Kuala Lumpur sent me a fax that said:

I (and Mrs.) support Pak Jacob's actions. At least it will keep some of the "cultural adventurers" comments in check. Many among them are just eager to make "surprises"--whether correct or not--and they often consider local experts as incapable... Our people should be in control of the material...,"

Kompas in November quoted Prof. Moendarjito, Prof. Sedyawati, and Drs Arief Rahman the head of UNESCO Indonesia, as being concerned that the Flores findings will be transported to Australia.

Teuku Jacob. Professor Emeritus of Palaeoanthtropology, Universitas Gajah Mada, Yogyakarta.


Replies to this message:
 Message 92 by Quetzal, posted 12-16-2004 8:46 AM Andya Primanda has responded
 Message 113 by Godfearingatheist, posted 03-27-2005 3:33 PM Andya Primanda has not yet responded

  
Quetzal
Member (Idle past 3431 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002


Message 92 of 213 (168856)
12-16-2004 8:46 AM
Reply to: Message 91 by Andya Primanda
12-16-2004 7:19 AM


Re: To EvC only: A translated comment from Teuku Jacob
Outstanding work, Andya. Thanks.

I think the controversy points to another example in the long, long list of unpleasent and occasionally vituperative relations between hominid specialists (c.f., Leakey-Johannson). I'm just glad I "grew out" of my youthly desire to become a paleoanthropologist. I don't even think the controversy over Margulis' extreme endosymbiosis theories was this nasty.

On the details Prof. Jacob provided - the microcephaly etc are logical explanations only to an extent. On the one hand, it is entirely possible (and even likely) that severe inbreeding depression in a highly isolated population could cause and reinforce genetic disorders of the nature Prof. Jacob suggests. On the other hand, I find it difficult to credence that such a population could have survived for any length of time if the majority of the members suffered from mental retardation or other inbreeding-caused genetic problems of this magnitude. Has the professor provided any further details on how this could be?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 91 by Andya Primanda, posted 12-16-2004 7:19 AM Andya Primanda has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 93 by Andya Primanda, posted 12-17-2004 6:42 AM Quetzal has responded

  
Andya Primanda
Inactive Member


Message 93 of 213 (169283)
12-17-2004 6:42 AM
Reply to: Message 92 by Quetzal
12-16-2004 8:46 AM


Re: To EvC only: A translated comment from Teuku Jacob
Unfortunately I do not know about the details at the moment but I have colleagues who can contact prof Jacob regularly. Lets see if I can get any more info.

By the way, I should also mention that IMO Prof. Jacob has a rather unconventional understanding of evolution. He seems to think that it's an irreversible process (the comment about brains getting small then big again).

I think this would have to wait until Prof Jacob's team published their results. In the meantime, I think his decision to put a preliminary shot in a general newspaper is due to all the bad press he's received in the last few weeks. I could sympathize with him in that respect.

This message has been edited by Andya Primanda, 12-17-2004 06:45 AM


This message is a reply to:
 Message 92 by Quetzal, posted 12-16-2004 8:46 AM Quetzal has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 94 by Quetzal, posted 12-17-2004 10:00 AM Andya Primanda has not yet responded

  
Quetzal
Member (Idle past 3431 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002


Message 94 of 213 (169316)
12-17-2004 10:00 AM
Reply to: Message 93 by Andya Primanda
12-17-2004 6:42 AM


Re: To EvC only: A translated comment from Teuku Jacob
Any additional info would be greatly appreciated.

I agree we'll have to wait for Prof. Jacob's team report. Not an unusual situation - how long did we have to wait for Thewison's stuff on Pakicetus? Years! He dribbled it out over a decade, and jealously guarded his bones until he could milk the finds for all they were worth. Understandable, if somewhat irritating for those of us awaiting the results...

I can understand Prof. Jacob's desire to counterattack his critics in the open press, although I find the whole situation an unpleasant way of doing science. Note, I don't blame Prof. Jacobs - I just don't like the way things get done in that field in general.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 93 by Andya Primanda, posted 12-17-2004 6:42 AM Andya Primanda has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 95 by Graculus, posted 12-19-2004 12:53 PM Quetzal has not yet responded

  
Graculus
Inactive Member


Message 95 of 213 (169892)
12-19-2004 12:53 PM
Reply to: Message 94 by Quetzal
12-17-2004 10:00 AM


Re: To EvC only: A translated comment from Teuku Jacob
(Random thoughts from an amateur)

In re: the debate between australopithecus and erectus and sapiens.

Erectus reached Flores about 840 kys. How likely is it that autralopithecus not only got out of Africa but managed to cross a fair bit of nasty ocean to Flores without leaving any pesky fossil evidence along the way?

Does anyone know the fossil history of sapiens on Flores? If there were "normal" sapiens present all of that time, then would there have been enough breeding isolation? Also, by the time of sapiens I would think that we'd gained enough control over our environment to be less susceptable to the type severe, rapid drift that would be required to produce floriensis in such a short time.


This message is a reply to:
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Dr Jack
Member
Posts: 3506
From: Leicester, England
Joined: 07-14-2003


Message 96 of 213 (189980)
03-04-2005 5:46 AM


Latest news: not a diseased human.
Results from braincase analysis of "Homo Florensis" indicate that it is not, after all, simply a case of a diseased human.

Full story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4308751.stm


Replies to this message:
 Message 97 by RAZD, posted 03-04-2005 7:29 AM Dr Jack has not yet responded
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RAZD
Member
Posts: 19090
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 2.5


Message 97 of 213 (189991)
03-04-2005 7:29 AM
Reply to: Message 96 by Dr Jack
03-04-2005 5:46 AM


Re: Latest news: not a diseased human.
thanks! just the other day I was wondering what new was developing here.
This message is a reply to:
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macaroniandcheese 
Suspended Member (Idle past 1487 days)
Posts: 4258
Joined: 05-24-2004


Message 98 of 213 (190197)
03-05-2005 12:56 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by RAZD
10-27-2004 5:11 PM


quote:
Originally posted by RAZD:

so this may just be a case of evolution to a smaller species from Homo sapiens.

you mean
people aren't the end of human evolution? we aren't the end all, be all supreme being?

omg no!

*snickers*


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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Chiroptera
Member
Posts: 6396
From: Oklahoma
Joined: 09-28-2003


Message 99 of 213 (190201)
03-05-2005 1:09 PM


another theory
Another idea that seems to be floating around is that Homo florensiensis represents another line from Australopithecus (or, at least, from H. habilis) than the one that led to H. sapiens.

Not being an anthropologist, I can't evaluate these hypotheses myself, but all of these ideas are fascinating.

Edited the last sentence: "can" changed to "can't".

This message has been edited by Chiroptera, 03-05-2005 15:36 AM


Replies to this message:
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NosyNed
Member
Posts: 8800
From: Canada
Joined: 04-04-2003
Member Rating: 10.0


Message 100 of 213 (190220)
03-05-2005 2:58 PM
Reply to: Message 99 by Chiroptera
03-05-2005 1:09 PM


quirks and quarks from vancouver is about to start
One of the pieces is discussing H florensiensis
This message is a reply to:
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RAZD
Member
Posts: 19090
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 2.5


Message 101 of 213 (190225)
03-05-2005 4:55 PM
Reply to: Message 99 by Chiroptera
03-05-2005 1:09 PM


Re: another theory
Interesting article, thanks. My feeling is that this is parallel evolution with the elements enlarged in florensis being the result of similar evolutionary pressures but giving slightly different results. It may also help define what elements in which parts of the brain are needed for minimum intelligence in different areas.


we are limited in our ability to understand
by our ability to understand

RebelAAmerican.Zen[Deist
{{{Buddha walks off laughing with joy}}}


This message is a reply to:
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Andya Primanda
Inactive Member


Message 102 of 213 (190417)
03-07-2005 3:48 AM
Reply to: Message 96 by Dr Jack
03-04-2005 5:46 AM


Re: Latest news: not a diseased human.
A little off-science angle: The press conference by this finding also includes people from Prof. Teuku Jacob's camp. Maybe this means that he had changed his mind. SO far there had been no direct comment from him.
This message is a reply to:
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tsig
Member (Idle past 468 days)
Posts: 738
From: USA
Joined: 04-09-2004


Message 103 of 213 (190431)
03-07-2005 6:23 AM
Reply to: Message 98 by macaroniandcheese
03-05-2005 12:56 PM


you mean
people aren't the end of human evolution? we aren't the end all, be all supreme being?

omg no!

*snickers*

As a pudddle the size of the ground exzcly fits my shape, truely the ground was designed for me.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 98 by macaroniandcheese, posted 03-05-2005 12:56 PM macaroniandcheese has not yet responded

    
Brad McFall
Member (Idle past 2592 days)
Posts: 3428
From: Ithaca,NY, USA
Joined: 12-20-2001


Message 104 of 213 (190648)
03-08-2005 3:05 PM
Reply to: Message 98 by macaroniandcheese
03-05-2005 12:56 PM


yep, it looks that sarcastic

Click to enlarge


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Click to enlarge

I could not tell if you admins wanted more content or no bare links. I really only wanted to let Brennakimi know I agreed with the slant in the post I responded to. I could have done it without posting some interesting material from the past. Besides I really had first thought to say that hopefully what is presented in this article does not occur in the study of floresiensis as Andya has aptly reported but I wanted to first only respond to Brennakimi and not wake up the whole thread. With both of you two responding before others there is no way I can tell which is the correct way to edit. I hope this is sufficient. If not delete the post and leave the sar-casm, it is deep but no longer the dark nursery it was.

The article describes a situtation in biology in the 30s in which the American Indians are compared to Neanderthals and (it)atttempts to explain how humans might learn from fossils. This would apply in the current case (see "imagine" a "group" on the last page etc.) but hopefully not with the same tone.

I am still a little unsure how to get the tumbs to line up as percy first said.

This message has been edited by Brad McFall, 03-09-2005 13:19 AM


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Adminnemooseus
Director
Posts: 3829
Joined: 09-26-2002


Message 105 of 213 (190649)
03-08-2005 3:14 PM
Reply to: Message 104 by Brad McFall
03-08-2005 3:05 PM


Re: yep, it looks that sarcastic
Brad, you are posting what is essentially a bare link, which is a violation of forum guidelines.

Would you please try to elaborate on the significance of the information of the newspaper clipping?

Adminnemooseus


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This message is a reply to:
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