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A New Human: The Startling Discovery and Strange Story of the "Hobbits" of Flores, Indonesia Hardcover – May 8, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Smithsonian (May 8, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060899085
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060899080
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 7.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #247,777 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Dr. Mike Morwood is a professor of anthropology at the University of New England in Armidale, New South Wales, Australia. In addition to his work in Indonesia, he is an expert in Australian Aboriginal rock art and the author of Visions from the Past: The Archaeology of Australian Aboriginal Art.



Penny Van Oosterzee has twice won Australia's prestigious Eureka Science Book Prize, and is the author of Dragon Bones: The Story of Peking Man and Where Worlds Collide: The Wallace Line.


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Customer Reviews

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5 enthusiastic stars!
tnnaturalist
A great book for anyone who finds human origins an interesting topic.
DA
It truly helped to make much of the events easier to understand.
Michael Valdivielso

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Roger McEvilly (the guilty bystander) on May 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The authors, Mike Morwood and Penny Van Oosterzee, present a first-hand account of the discovery of parts of 13 hominin (ie `human lineage') skeletons (including a well-preserved skull), in a cave on the island of Flores in Indonesia in 2003. These bones have been interpreted to belong to a new species of `human': indeed a dwarfed descendant of a pre-Homo sapien species. Mike Morwood and co., who were responsible for the project, interpret the bones as belonging to dwarfed descendants of Homo habilis, only previously known from ~1.9 million year old specimens from Africa. The bones were found within sediments dating between 95,000 and 12,000 years ago, and reveal individuals only about 1.06m high, with a brain capacity of only 380cc, or around 1/3 of modern humans. Primitive tools, and evidence of hunting and fire were also found.

Massive ramifications ensue from such a discovery. Is this really a case of insular dwarfism, well-documented in the non-human world (where animals bigger than a rabbit on isolated islands tend to get considerably smaller over time), but never before in the `human' lineage? Or is it just a few medically-afflicted Homo sapien individuals? Is it really a different species? How long ago did they live? How did they die out? Did they have language? Did they have religion? Most of the current data and interpretations are presented in this book, although there has been some recent studies not presented in any detail, and of course there will be more to come. Tragically, some of the material has been damaged during research, due to bungling and politics.

The authors do an admirable job putting the find in its proper context.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By sneaky-sneaky VINE VOICE on October 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When reading about new advances in science it is often best to start with their discoverer, rather than with the "me toos" or the naysayers. Dr. Mike Morwood is an Australian anthropologist well qualified to undertake the now-famous excavations on the island of Flores in Indonesia. With a little journalistic help from a science writer he has turned in a solid book that is part travelogue, part excavation drama, and in the end, quite a shocking revelation about the rivalries that exist within the scientific community. The most common objections to the so-called Hobbits of Flores are that they are microcephalic sapiens, but as Dr. Morwood correctly points out, these arguments have been used before, and date back to the very first Neandertal and Java Man discoveries. Scientific support for the book comes with publication in "Nature" perhaps the most prestigious scientific journal, which also turned down articles submitted by the fossil's detractors. In the latter stages of the book "A New Human" examples of island biogeography and its association with gigantism and dwarfism are presented that should have been brought to the forefront, but this isn't a problem for a true believer. The most startling revelation is the fact that Morwood does not believe the Floresians are dwarf H. erectus (sorry italics not available), but instead H. habilis, or even descendents of Australopithecines! The author's open-mindedness about the importance of Asia and Indonesia to the overall evolutionary picture is refreshing and he makes an interesting point about the sudden appearance of H. ergaster in the fossil record that could be due to its evolution in Asia and a back-colonization of Africa. That pygmies have evolved at least four times in recent history is not in doubt, the Andaman Islanders, Negritos of the Philippines, and San Bushmen are not products of JRR Tolkien's imagination, and island biogeographic principles have clearly impacted the evolution of our ancestors, and other animals.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Michael Valdivielso on July 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
A New Human is just not a book on the discovery of Homo floresiensis and all the reactions to this amazing find of a new species of man but also a warning towards those who wish to enter the field of archaeology (or any field of science) that nothing is easy. Mike Morwood has to deal with a harsh landscape, a different culture, the scientific controversy his find would bring about and the bureaucracy that seemed to fight him every step of the way. If you have read Java Man, which tell us about the adventures and mishaps Geochronologists Carl Swisher and Garniss Curtis, then you should think of this book as the next book to read. It truly helped to make much of the events easier to understand.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Enjolras TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
[Note: there is an updated version of this book at A New Human: The Startling Discovery and Strange Story of the "Hobbits" of Flores, Indonesia, Updated Paperback Edition]

Like the rest of the world, I was fascinated by the 2004 discovery of small Hobbit-like hominid fossils on the island of Flores (and compared to the recent flap over Ida, it's worth remembering how professionally the Hobbit discovery was handled). Also like the rest of the world, I had little appreciation of the process and politics behind the find. In this book, Morwood recounts his role in the finds. The book focuses on the science of the Hobbits themselves, including the preparations for the archeology and descriptions of the fossils themselves. Morwood also discusses the basic science behind paleoanthropology and island dwarfism in separate chapters, which help buttress his claim that the "Hobbits" are actually a distinct species.

However, the book also has some fascinating accounts of the bureaucratic and political hassles the team faced. Most dramatically, the core team of Australian and Indonesian archeologists competed with older Indonesian archeologists who wanted to keep the bones for their own studies. Morwood never spends so much time on these problems to distract from the importance of the find, but it does create a more realistic picture of science as a process.

Morwood is biased and does not try to hide his anger at critics who dismiss the find as the result of pathology (such as modern humans with microcephaly). However, I thought the book presented enough evidence to show that the claims should be taken seriously.
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