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

4.6 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Smithsonian (May 8, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060899085
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060899080
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #850,134 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I wanted to learn as much as I could about hobbits. I learned a lot about Mike Moorewood and his work which included some information about hobbits but nothing in any detail that I hadn't already picked up from the articles I've read. Its a fairly good read but if you are truly interested in learning about the new people as he calls them this book is going to be a big let down. I guess I'll put it this way the shaman of anthropology are keeping nearly everything locked up in a handful of magazines and unless you want to pay big bucks you aren't going to get that data. Crap, a lot of them won't bother to publish even half of what they find so in the end they are little better than pot hunters collecting souvenirs. Sorry Mike. Not all that nice to say right after you passed but you noted the problem yourself in reference to Jacob. Yes he dug in the earth and found important things but he didn't publish.I've just bought and read the only two books I could find on Hobbits and both were mostly about the author and only lightly touched on what the book was supposed to be about. I guess I'll end up dying without knowing.
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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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