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'Hobbit' human may have had Down syndrome

Posted on Wednesday, 6 August, 2014 | Comment icon 21 comments

The cave in which the remains were discovered. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 Rosino / Flickr
New doubts have been cast on the idea that a species of small humans lived on the island of Flores.
Few anthropological discoveries have been as fiercely debated in recent times as the finding in 2004 of bones in Indonesia of what some believed to be a previously unknown species of human with an abnormally small stature.

While many experts have contested the idea that the bones belonged to a genuinely distinct species, a recent reanalysis of the remains has opened up the possibility that the 'Hobbit' might have actually been a modern human suffering from Down syndrome.

Of particular note was a discrepancy in the estimated brain size of the individual, originally thought to be one third that of a modern human, based on measurements of its skull.

"The difference is significant, and the revised figure falls in the range predicted for a modern human with Down syndrome from the same geographic region," said Professor Robert B. Eckhardt.

Source: Discovery News | Comments (21)

Tags: Hobbit, Flores

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #12 Posted by Peter B on 7 August, 2014, 15:25
I have my doubts about the theory. Take that with a grain of salt, as I have no relevant qualifications. However, the man proposing the theory, Maciej Henneburg, has been a hobbit skeptic pretty much ever since the announcement of the discovery of the hobbit skeletons. In previous years his theory was that the hobbits were normal humans with microcephaly (congenitally small brains). Now they're normal humans with Down Syndrome. By contrast, other studies have pointed out the hobbit skeletons share anatomical characteristics with primitive humans such as Homo habilis.
Comment icon #13 Posted by Ifonly on 7 August, 2014, 16:29
How exactly would having down syndrome account for the size of these people, and wouldn't three feet tall primitive people just naturally have smaller brains.
Comment icon #14 Posted by Yes_Man on 7 August, 2014, 17:05
Its called Island Dwarfism, . Same with Dwarf Elephants and the reverse is Island Giantism, in the case of Giant Tortoises and Komodo dragons.
Comment icon #15 Posted by questionmark on 7 August, 2014, 19:45
And while you are right there we might want to explain it a little more: dwarfism occurs when in a restricted habitat a species occurs that cannot be supported by it and it (the species) has no enemy. Gigantism occurs when a species has no competition in its ecological niche. Now, Flores with its over 5000 square miles is hardly a too small habitat to make Dwarfism in humans an issue, which was always the Achilles Heel of the Hobbit theory.
Comment icon #16 Posted by PersonFromPorlock on 7 August, 2014, 20:02
I suppose anything is possible, but the fact that the 'hobbit' skull has round (instead of rectangular) eye sockets would seem to rule out its being an h. sapiens of any sort.
Comment icon #17 Posted by Sundew on 14 August, 2014, 2:04
As if life with Down's Syndrome would not be difficult enough, add to that ten foot carnivorous lizards roaming about. Could someone with Down's even defend themselves in such a situation and would a primitive society protect them or see them only as a liability in a dangerous environment?
Comment icon #18 Posted by psyche101 on 14 August, 2014, 4:13
I am very dubious of the claim as well, they "have a feeling" about the shape of the thigh bone, and the skull is asymmetrical, which mean nothing at all here. I do not see how this trumps the more definitive evidence seen in the wrist bones, which are more primitive, like those of gorillas, chimpanzees, and other early human ancestors.
Comment icon #19 Posted by Atlantisresearch on 14 August, 2014, 4:17
The 'hobbit' remains might be frauds. There is only one complete skull (LB1) and Henneberg has argued he spotted a modern dental filling.
Comment icon #20 Posted by psyche101 on 14 August, 2014, 4:29
From that link: At least one independent expert who has seen the specimen agrees. Dental anthropologist Shara Bailey, now of New York University, has not taken sides in the hobbit wars but had the chance to examine the specimen in detail while it was in Jacob's lab. "I was surprised by the hypothesis," she says. The first molar had odd dental wear and coloration, she admits--"I was struck by the opacity and whiteness of the dentine"--but it didn't look like a filling. She points out that "the canine and incisor have the same overall look. ... If someone fille... [More]

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