Monday, November 29, 2004

Hobbit trouble

Via the excellent science site The Loom , a disturbing development with respect to the Homo Floresienis remains found in Indonesia. These small skeletons appear to be non-homo sapiens, but the remains are only about 20,000 years old, suggesting that modern humans overlapped chronologically with their close cousins for a very long time.
Unfortunately, the remains have been "taken into custody" (subscription link) by a politically connected anthropologist in Indonesia.
The condition of the remains was already very sketchy (I think the reports out of Nature said the preserved bones had the "consistency of soap") and, as Carl points out, if mitochondrial DNA retrieval is to work then the remains have got to be kept scrupulously clean of modern human contamination. Even a fingerprint could throw the analysis.
As there is still some doubt that these remains are not modern human (possibly pygmy), it would be critical to safeguard the original sites and give access to the existing remains-- and soon!

No comments: