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J Hum Evol. 2009 Nov;57(5):640-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2009.08.003.

Conclusions: implications of the Liang Bua excavations for hominin evolution and biogeography.

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  • 1GeoQuEST Research Centre, University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia.


Excavations at Liang Bua, on the Indonesian island of Flores, have yielded a stratified sequence of stone artifacts and faunal remains spanning the last 95k.yr., which includes the skeletal remains of two human species, Homo sapiens in the Holocene and Homo floresiensis in the Pleistocene. This paper summarizes and focuses on some of the evidence for Homo floresiensis in context, as presented in this Special Issue edition of the Journal of Human Evolution and elsewhere. Attempts to dismiss the Pleistocene hominins (and the type specimen LB1 in particular) as pathological pygmy humans are not compatible with detailed analyses of the skull, teeth, brain endocast, and postcranium. We initially concluded that H. floresiensis may have evolved by insular dwarfing of a larger-bodied hominin species over 880k.yr. or more. However, recovery of additional specimens and the numerous primitive morphological traits seen throughout the skeleton suggest instead that it is more likely to be a late representative of a small-bodied lineage that exited Africa before the emergence of Homo erectus sensu lato. Homo floresiensis is clearly not an australopithecine, but does retain many aspects of anatomy (and perhaps behavior) that are probably plesiomorphic for the genus Homo. We also discuss some of the other implications of this tiny, endemic species for early hominin dispersal and evolution (e.g., for the "Out of Africa 1" paradigm and more specifically for colonizing Southeast Asia), and we present options for future research in the region.

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