Human Evolution: Discuss the significance of the recent discovery of homo floresiensis for paleoanthropology.

Essay by nash1984College, UndergraduateB+, October 2005

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Homo Floresiensis is a hominid species whose remains were discovered on the island of Flores in 2003. Although it's exact identity and origin are in dispute, H.Floresiensis was considered sufficiently anatomically different to constitute a new species. It's discovery has generated debate over hominid culture and dispersal. Most significantly it has effected uncertainty about the path of "modern human" evolution as well as the relationship between physical characters e.g. encephalisation, height etc and 'intelligence'.


A significant aspect of the discovery of H. Floresiensis is that they survived as recently as 18,000 years ago as confirmed by radiocarbon (C14) dating . This makes them the most recent non-modern hominid far outliving homo neanderthalensis, which is thought to have gone extinct 30,000 years ago . As a result H.Floresiensis is thought to have been contemporaneous with modern humans who arrived in the region 35,000-55,000 years ago, but who survived where H.Floresiensis


Figure 1: Outlines that H.Floresiensis was contemporaneous with modern humans, and posits that the species derived from an ancestral H.Erectus population in S.E. Asia.

The discovery is significant in that it facilitates further uncertainty about how modern human populations succeeded earlier humans. One hypothesis is that modern humans were responsible for the extinction of these earlier species such as H.Neanderthalensis and early archaics, as part of the "complete replacement model. " Accordingly it has been proposed that modern humans migrating in Asia between 500,000 and 100,000 years ago may have been the reason for their demise. This would rationalise the existence of very advanced tools in areas near the remains, which are discussed below. A conflicting theory, based on the disappearance of stegodon remains is that a volcanic event led to their extinction approximately 12000 years ago. Thus the discovery underscores the debate between the complete replacement...