Flores hominid: New species or microcephalic dwarf?



The proposed new hominid “Homo floresiensis” is based on specimens from cave deposits on the Indonesian island Flores. The primary evidence, dated at ∼ 18,000 y, is a skull and partial skeleton of a very small but dentally adult individual (LB1). Incomplete specimens are attributed to eight additional individuals. Stone tools at the site are also attributed to H. floresiensis. The discoverers interpreted H. floresiensis as an insular dwarf derived from Homo erectus, but others see LB1 as a small-bodied microcephalic Homo sapiens. Study of virtual endocasts, including LB1 and a European microcephalic, purportedly excluded microcephaly, but reconsideration reveals several problems. The cranial capacity of LB1 (∼ 400 cc) is smaller than in any other known hominid < 3.5 Ma and is far too small to derive from Homo erectus by normal dwarfing. By contrast, some associated tools were generated with a prepared-core technique previously unknown for H. erectus, including bladelets otherwise associated exclusively with H. sapiens. The single European microcephalic skull used in comparing virtual endocasts was particularly unsuitable. The specimen was a cast, not the original skull (traced to Stuttgart), from a 10-year-old child with massive pathology. Moreover, the calotte does not fit well with the rest of the cast, probably being a later addition of unknown history. Consideration of various forms of human microcephaly and of two adult specimens indicates that LB1 could well be a microcephalic Homo sapiens. This is the most likely explanation for the incongruous association of a small-brained recent hominid with advanced stone tools. Anat Rec Part A, 288A:1123–1145, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.