Further evidence for small-bodied hominins from the Late Pleistocene of Flores, Indonesia

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Abstract

Homo floresiensis was recovered from Late Pleistocene deposits on the island of Flores in eastern Indonesia, but has the stature, limb proportions and endocranial volume of African Pliocene Australopithecus1. The holotype of the species (LB1), excavated in 2003 from Liang Bua, consisted of a partial skeleton minus the arms. Here we describe additional H. floresiensis remains excavated from the cave in 2004. These include arm bones belonging to the holotype skeleton, a second adult mandible, and postcranial material from other individuals. We can now reconstruct the body proportions of H. floresiensis with some certainty. The finds further demonstrate that LB1 is not just an aberrant or pathological individual, but is representative of a long-term population that was present during the interval 95–74 to 12 thousand years ago. The excavation also yielded more evidence for the depositional history of the cave and for the behavioural capabilities of H. floresiensis, including the butchery of Stegodon and use of fire.

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Figure 1: Stratigraphy in the Sector VII/XI trench, Liang Bua.
Figure 2: Occlusal and lateral views of LB1 and LB6/1 H. floresiensis mandibles.
Figure 3: LB8 right tibia morphology.
Figure 4: LB1 right humerus morphology.
Figure 5: LB1 right ulna morphology.
Figure 6: Limb proportions in H. floresiensis.
Figure 7: Femur and humerus shaft robusticity in H. floresiensis.

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Acknowledgements

The 2004 excavations at Liang Bua were funded by a Discovery Project grant from the Australian Research Council (ARC) to M.J.M. The ARC also supported R.G.R. through a Senior Research Fellowship. K.E.W. was in receipt of postgraduate scholarships from the University of Wollongong, and P.B. and T.M. received a grant from the University of New England. Excavations were undertaken under Asisten Deputi Urusan Arkeologi Nasional, Number 1100/SB/U.ARNAS/VII/04, and Pemerintah Kabupaten Manggarai, Surat Rekomendasi No: 565/Kesbang.IV/VII/2004β. R. P. Soejono was the Indonesian Institutional Counterpart. Other participants included C. Lentfer, G. van den Bergh, C. Turney, D. Hobbs, K. Grant, D. Y. Yuniawati, A. Brumm, Rikus, Deus, Leo, Ansel, Agus, Seus, Camellus, Gaba, Rius, Beni and Piet. P. Jordan, D. Falk, S. G. Larson and K. Morwood commented on an earlier version of the paper, and D. Hobbs redrafted Fig. 1. P.B. and T.M. thank R. Kruszynski (Natural History Museum, London), R. Orban (Institut Royal des Sciences Naturelles de Belgique, Bruxelles) and W. Wendelen (Royal Museum of Central Africa, Tervuren) for providing access to skeletal collections in their care. Author Contributions M.J.M. was Chief Investigator and the Australian Institutional Counterpart in this ARC project. P.B. was responsible for analysis and interpretation of the hominin remains. T.S., J., E.W.S., R.A.D. and S.W. directed aspects of the excavations, recording and analyses. Thermoluminescence ages were provided by R.G.R. and K.E.W., who also described the stratigraphy. T.M. and P.B. collected comparative data on small-bodied modern humans and non-human primates. As Director of the Indonesian Centre for Archaeology, T.D. authorized the excavations, provided support and assisted with stratigraphic interpretation.

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Correspondence to M. J. Morwood or P. Brown.

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Supplementary Methods

This file contains Supplementary Methods and Supplementary Table S1. (PDF 25 kb)

Supplementary Notes

This file contains Supplementary Tables S2 and S3, Supplementary Figures S1–S6 and additional references. (PDF 466 kb)

Supplementary Figure S6

Plan of Liang Bua showing the distribution of excavated sectors. (PDF 4021 kb)

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Morwood, M., Brown, P., Jatmiko et al. Further evidence for small-bodied hominins from the Late Pleistocene of Flores, Indonesia. Nature 437, 1012–1017 (2005) doi:10.1038/nature04022

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