The Homo Floresiensis Controversy: The Hunt For The Modern Hobbit A Hoax?
Has the search for the modern relatives of Flores Island’s Homo floresiensis turned into a hoax-hunt? Everything that scientists thought about human evolution changed in 1856 after the first fossil evidence of ancestral human forms was discovered by quarrymen in the Neander Valley in Germany, sparking great debate about the then unknown evolution of our species. The discovery of this Neanderthal skull marked the beginning of human paleontology and it also initiated a volume of new questions pertaining to how many other early human ancestors were out there, still awaiting discovery.
Professor Johann Karl Fuhlrott discovered the skull of “Neanderthal 1” in the Feldhofer Cave in Germany in 1856, and it was radiocarbon dated to 40,000 years ago. (Public Domain).
A modicum of evolutionary clarity was achieved after 1868 when archaeologist François Berthoumeyrou unearthed the remains of early modern humans at the now famous Cro-Magnon rock shelter, Les Eyzies de Tayac, Dordogne, France. These fossils represented the first widely accepted evidence of early Homo sapiens and today more than 6,000 human fossils have been discovered that together tell the story of our development over the last seven million years of human evolution. Incidentally, the seven million years reference comes from the 2001 discovery of a partial fossil leg bone and two forearm bones in the central African nation of Chad, that represent the earliest known hominid which around seven million years ago both walked upright and climbed in the trees.
While seven million years might sound like a significant period of time it was shown to be but a scratch on the surface of the cosmic clock, when in 2017 a team of researchers at UCLA and the University of Wisconsin–Madison confirmed that microscopic fossils discovered in a nearly 3.5-billion-year-old piece of rock in western Australia are the oldest fossils ever found and indeed the earliest direct evidence of life on earth. While all this is known about the origins of life on earth over the last 150 years, much like today, mainstream newspaper headlines have bent, distorted and greatly steered the course of public perception regarding what actually happened in evolution, to suit their donors and associated political and religious narratives.
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Ashley Cowie is a Scottish historian, author and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems, in accessible and exciting ways. His books, articles and television shows explore lost cultures and kingdoms, ancient crafts and artifacts, symbols and architecture, myths and legends telling thought-provoking stories which together offer insights into our shared social history.
Top Image: Cave where the remains of Homo floresiensis were discovered in 2003, Lian Bua, Flores, Indonesia (CC BY-SA 2.0)
By: Ashley Cowie