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The Sultan Center for World Affairs

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The art and practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of states

Friday, May 26, 2017

  • 3:30 PM
TSCFWA -- The ConversationI was in Jakarta, Indonesia in 2008 and lucky enough to examine the bones of one of the most controversial Hominin species that has ever been discovered. The skeletal remains belonged to an ancient people with tiny brains, and so short that they have been nicknamed “hobbits”. The Conversation

These important fossils, like so many others, were essentially found by mistake. In 1997, a team of Australian archaeologists, led by the late Mike Morwood, was on the prowl for evidence of the first modern humans to arrive on the continent. They had turned their attention to the chain of Indonesian islands that formed stepping stones from mainland Southeast Asia to Australia itself.

Digging in a cave called Liang Bua on the island of Flores, they discovered something intriguing: extremely ancient stone tools. They were too old to have been made by our own species – Homo sapiens, or “modern humans”.

In 2001, they found not just stones, but bones. The first to turn up was a strangely curved radius, a forearm bone. Four years later, the archaeologists unearthed what they initially thought were the skeletal remains of a child, including its skull. But the teeth in the skull weren’t milk teeth: they were well-worn, permanent teeth. The skeleton had clearly belonged to an extremely tiny adult, as Peter Brown, the first anthropologist to examine the bones, quickly recognised.

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