Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Hobbits in limbo

Some very important paleontological remains are being kept away from their discoverers by another scientist. The bones of the "hobbits," small meter-high people who may well be an entirely new species of hominid, are being kept by an well-connected Indonesian anthropologist, Prof. Jacob, despite repeated requests for their return to the Indonesian Center for Archaeology. The situation is somwhat delicate, as Australians led the discovery team, and if they push too hard they may be denied permission to dig further.

Carl Zimmer at The Loom has also been following the dispute over these remains. He links to a translation of the Professor's defense, dated Decemberish. The professor says that it has been a longstanding agreement between the ICA and his lab that hominid remains go to him at his Yogykarta lab. He raises the possibilty that the physical anthropology in the original report was sloppy, then spends the rest of the long essay crying foreign interference and generally digging in his heels. It's pretty clear, as of that writing, he'll give them up when he's good and ready.

Casts of these remains have already been made (one set is at Oxford )
but the DNA in the original samples is priceless. High stakes stuff.

By the way, check out Zinken , a cool archeology site, which gave me the Oxford link.

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