Letter | Published:

Early stone technology on Flores and its implications for Homo floresiensis

Naturevolume 441pages624628 (2006) | Download Citation

Subjects

Abstract

In the Soa Basin of central Flores, eastern Indonesia, stratified archaeological sites, including Mata Menge, Boa Lesa and Kobatuwa (Fig. 1), contain stone artefacts associated with the fossilized remains of Stegodon florensis, Komodo dragon, rat and various other taxa. These sites have been dated to 840–700 kyr bp (thousand years before present)1. The authenticity of the Soa Basin artefacts and their provenance have been demonstrated by previous work2,3,4,5,6, but to quell lingering doubts7, here we describe the context, attributes and production modes of 507 artefacts excavated at Mata Menge. We also note specific similarities, and apparent technological continuity, between the Mata Menge stone artefacts and those excavated from Late Pleistocene levels at Liang Bua cave, 50 km to the west. The latter artefacts, dated to between 95–74 and 12 kyr ago8,9, are associated with the remains of a dwarfed descendent of S. florensis, Komodo dragon, rat and a small-bodied hominin species, Homo floresiensis, which had a brain size of about 400 cubic centimetres10,11. The Mata Menge evidence negates claims that stone artefacts associated with H. floresiensis are so complex that they must have been made by modern humans (Homo sapiens)7.

Figure 1: Early and Middle Pleistocene sites in the Soa Basin of Flores.
Figure 1

1, Kobatuwa; 2, Mata Menge; 3, Lembahmenge; 4, Boa Lesa; 5, Ola Bula; 6, Tangi Talo; 7, Wolo Milo; 8, Wolokeo; 9, Sagala; 10, Dozu Dhalu; 11, Kopowatu; 12, Ngamapa; 13, Pauphadhi; 14, Deko Weko; 15, Malahuma. The dashed areas indicated with a V represent volcanoes. The broken line indicates the approximate boundary of the Ae Sissa River drainage basin.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1

    O'Sullivan, P. B. et al. Archaeological implications of the geology and chronology of the Soa basin, Flores, Indonesia. Geology 29, 607–610 (2001)

  2. 2

    Maringer, J. & Verhoeven, Th. Die steinartefakte aus der Stegodon-fossilschicht von Mengeruda auf Flores, Indonesien. Anthropos 65, 229–247 (1970)

  3. 3

    Sondaar, P. Y. et al. Middle Pleistocene faunal turn-over and colonisation of Flores (Indonesia) by Homo erectus. C.R. Acad. Sci. 319, 1255–1262 (1994)

  4. 4

    Morwood, M. J., O'Sullivan, P. B., Aziz, F. & Raza, A. Fission-track ages of stone tools and fossils on the east Indonesian island of Flores. Nature 392, 173–176 (1998)

  5. 5

    Morwood, M. J. et al. Archaeological and palaeontological research in central Flores, east Indonesia: results of fieldwork 1997–98. Antiquity 73, 273–286 (1999)

  6. 6

    Morwood, M. J., Aziz, F., van den Bergh, G. D., Sondaar, P. Y. & de Vos, J. Stone artefacts from the 1994 excavation at Mata Menge, west central Flores, Indonesia. Aust. Archaeol. 44, 26–34 (1997)

  7. 7

    Lahr, M. M. & Foley, R. Human evolution writ small. Nature 431, 1043–1044 (2004)

  8. 8

    Morwood, M. J. et al. Archaeology and age of a new hominin from Flores in eastern Indonesia. Nature 431, 1087–1091 (2004)

  9. 9

    Morwood, M. J. et al. Further evidence for small-bodied hominins from the Late Pleistocene of Flores, Indonesia. Nature 437, 1012–1017 (2005)

  10. 10

    Brown, P. et al. A new small-bodied hominin from the Late Pleistocene of Flores, Indonesia. Nature 431, 1055–1061 (2004)

  11. 11

    Falk, D. et al. The brain of LB1, Homo floresiensis. Science 308, 242–245 (2005)

  12. 12

    van den Bergh, G. D. The Late Neogene elephantoid-bearing faunas of Indonesia and their palaeozoogeographic implications: a study of the terrestrial faunal succession of Sulawesi, Flores, and Java, including evidence for early hominid dispersal east of Wallace's Line. Scripta Geol. 117, 1–419 (1997)

  13. 13

    Schick, K. D. Stone Age Sites in the Making: Experiments in the Formation and Transformation of Archaeological Occurrences (BAR International Series 319, Oxford, 1986)

  14. 14

    Shea, J. J. Artifact abrasion, fluvial processes, and “living floors” from the Early Paleolithic site of ’Ubeidiya (Jordan Valley, Israel). Geoarchaeology 14, 191–207 (1999)

  15. 15

    Maringer, J. & Verhoeven, Th. Notes on stone artefacts in the National Archaeology Institute of Indonesia at Djakarta, collected from the Stegodon-fossil bed at Boaleza in Flores. Anthropos 65, 638–639 (1970)

  16. 16

    Moore, M. W. The Design Space of Lithic Technology. Thesis, Univ. New England (2005)

  17. 17

    Culotta, E. New ‘hobbits’ bolster species, but origins still a mystery. Science 310, 208–209 (2005)

Download references

Acknowledgements

Excavations at Mata Menge, funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery grant to M.J.M, were undertaken from 26 August to 29 September 2004 and 16 August to 23 September 2005. The work was done under GRDC survey/research permission letter 57/45.04/BMG/2004 to the Governor of NTT Province, Kupang. We received support from the Ngadha Regency Administration and Head of the Bajawa Culture and Tourism Office, I. Yusuf. Other participants included P. M. D. Moi, I. Botha, E. Yan Patriani, S. Sudjarwadi and 20 Ngadha people led by K. Podhi. The Secretary of Desa Mengeruda, G. Leo, provided further support. We also thank Ngaliman and Dadang for preparing the topographic map of the Mata Menge area, and J. Tode Solo for assistance in the field. The Department of Archaeology and Natural History, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University funded A.B. S. O'Connor and D. Boyd are thanked for their support. Author Contributions A.B. conducted the analysis and interpretation of the Mata Menge assemblage. F.A. and G.D.v.d.B. planned and directed the excavations in association with M.J.M. G.D.v.d.B. described the stratigraphy and prepared Fig. 2. D.R.H. was responsible for aspects of the archaeological fieldwork and prepared Fig. 1. I.K. assisted with the palaeontological research. M.W.M. assisted with the Mata Menge analysis, conducted the Liang Bua analysis and prepared Figs 35. R.F. conducted the microwear analysis.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Archaeology and Natural History, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, 0200, Australia

    • Adam Brumm
  2. Geological Research and Development Centre, Jalan Diponegoro 57, 40122, Bandung, Indonesia

    • Fachroel Aziz
    •  & Iwan Kurniawan
  3. Naturalis, the National Museum of Natural History, P.O. Box 9517, 2300 RA, Leiden, The Netherlands

    • Gert D. van den Bergh
  4. Department of Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology, School of Human and Environmental Studies, University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales, 2351, Australia

    • Michael J. Morwood
    •  & Mark W. Moore
  5. School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, New South Wales, 2522, Australia

    • Douglas R. Hobbs
  6. Department of Archaeology, A14, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, 2006, Australia

    • Richard Fullagar

Authors

  1. Search for Adam Brumm in:

  2. Search for Fachroel Aziz in:

  3. Search for Gert D. van den Bergh in:

  4. Search for Michael J. Morwood in:

  5. Search for Mark W. Moore in:

  6. Search for Iwan Kurniawan in:

  7. Search for Douglas R. Hobbs in:

  8. Search for Richard Fullagar in:

Competing interests

Reprints and permissions information is available at npg.nature.com/reprintsandpermissions. The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Adam Brumm or Mark W. Moore.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Notes

    This file contains Supplementary Figures and Legends, Supplementary Table and Supplementary Methods. This file contains information about the Mata Menge excavations and the stratigraphic context of the faunal assemblage. Further technological and statistical data are also provided, along with the methods and results of the microwear study. (PDF 1109 kb)

About this article

Publication history

Received

Accepted

Issue Date

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nature04618

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.