Are legendary hominoids worth looking for? Views from ethnobiology and palaeoanthropology (Respond to this article at


  • Gregory Forth

    1. Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Alberta. He has been conducting ethnographic research on the Indonesian island of Flores since 1984. His recent titles include Images of the wildman in Southeast Asia (Routledge, 2008), Guardians of the land in Kelimado (KITLV Press, 2004), Nage birds (Routledge, 2004), and Dualism and hierarchy (Oxford University Press, 2001). His email is
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It has been suggested that the newly discovered hominin species Homo floresiensis may have survived on the Indonesian island of Flores so recently as to inform local images of small-bodied hominoids. Taking an ethnobiological approach, the article discusses how this matter could be resolved empirically, and concludes that this will ultimately require physical evidence chronologically overlapping substantially with modern human populations. Further discussed are recent investigations affirming the resemblance of putative hominoids and what is known of Homo floresiensis, and a new initiative to excavate a Florenese site identified ethnographically as a mass hominoid burial. Whatever the outcome of these investigations, the case presents a challenge to sociocultural anthropologists inclined to interpret images of creatures undocumented by scientific zoology as purely social or cultural constructs.