Hominids, hairy hominoids and the science of humanity
Version of Record online: 9 JUN 2005
Volume 21, Issue 3, pages 13–17, June 2005
How to Cite
FORTH, G. (2005), Hominids, hairy hominoids and the science of humanity. Anthropology Today, 21: 13–17. doi: 10.1111/j.0268-540X.2005.00353.x
- Issue online: 9 JUN 2005
- Version of Record online: 9 JUN 2005
- 1Details of the discovery were first published on 28 October 2004 in the journal Nature, in an article and three shorter pieces. See Mirazon Lahr and Foley 2004, Brown et al. 2004, Morwood et al. 2004, Dalton 2004.
- 2With regard to finds of Homo erectus on Java, this position is argued at some length in a semi-popular book by Curtis et al. (2000).
- 3In a newer classification, the term is ‘hominin’— referring to a member of the ‘hominini’, which includes the genus Homo and several others but excludes extant apes. ‘Hominid’, however, is still the better known general term for the different species of Homo.
- 4This second team member was another geologist, Gert van den Bergh, the same man who in June 2004 informed me of the discovery of H. floresiensis. At that time and in subsequent emails, we also discussed my interest in ebu gogo, and the possibility that the representation might be grounded in some zoological reality.
- 5Actually, the Dutch did not ‘settle’ Flores—and in the part of central Flores evidently referred to, they established a colonial administration only in the early 20th century. According to genealogical and other evidence provided by Nage, I estimate that their extermination of ebu gogo would have occurred sometime between 1750 and 1820.
- 6These comprise hairy man-like creatures sometimes identified as ancestors in Manggarai clan traditions, including those named Maja, Empo-Wulu, Paju La'e (Verheijen 1967), and Reba Ruek (Fointuna 2004). Writing on central Manggarai, van Bekkum (1946) refers to hairy aboriginals named Rua (apparently meaning ‘wild’). Apart from other references, the Manggarai category poti wolo denotes what Verheijen describes as an ‘ape-man’ (1950) or a ‘creature resembling an orangutan’ (1967). (There are no zoologically attested orangutans or other apes on Flores.)
- 7In fact, another inconsistency would appear to be the pot belly, since this is symptomatic of plant-eating, whereas the archaeological interpretation suggests Homo floresiensis was substantially engaged in hunting. Also, while Roberts says ebu gogo were ‘about a metre tall’, most Nage describe the creatures as between one and 1.25 metres, and some claim their height did not differ significantly from that of modern Florinese (who are, however, considerably shorter than most Europeans).
- 8‘Spirit’ or ‘spiritual being’ can be defined as a polythetic class, the most common criteria of which include a fundamentally human psyche, an ability to assume human or animal form, the ability to change shape, and the power to become invisible or separate from any corporeal form or limitation.
- 9An example of this sort of treatment is the Daily Mail article I refer to below, the author of which also describes modern Florinese, quite inaccurately, as themselves barely emerged from caves. Both Richard Dawkins and Henry Gee have criticized the application of ‘hobbit’ to Homo floresiensis, although in the end Gee judges it superior to other possible pseudonyms—including ebu gogo! I am grateful to an anonymous reviewer for raising the interesting question of whether this application of ‘hobbit’ by academic researchers might be considered a denigration of human subjects and therefore a breach of professional ethics.
- 10The term possibly means something like ‘false monkey’. According to the article, the name is babo mamo, but this in fact is a Lio expression referring collectively to ‘ancestors’.