This article is from
Journal of Creation 36(3):82–91, December 2022

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Revisiting Homo floresiensis


Here, many aspects of the Homo floresiensis finds are considered, including dating, tools, contrasting views, and morphology, particularly regarding the LB1 skeleton. Cretinism, a likely explanation, is also discussed.

In late October 2004, newspaper headlines, such as “Lost race of human ‘hobbits’ unearthed on Indonesian island”,1 brought to mind J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth. If indeed the hobbit (its nickname) fossils represent a new ‘hominin’ species (named Homo floresiensis), then the media attention surrounding the find would be warranted, but that is a big ‘if’. The hobbit was never expected in any evolutionary narrative; it was incorporated ad hoc and patchily into an evolutionary story after its discovery.

When the Homo floresiensis remains from Liang Bua, Flores Island, were first published, the authors believed they were dealing with a dwarfed Homo erectus species.2 Originally the stature of the partial skeleton of the main fossil specimen (LB1) was estimated at 106 cm, its cranial capacity at 380 cc (cubic centimetres), and its date to 18 ka (thousand years ago).3

Photo by Peter LinePhoto of a replica of the partial skeleton of the adult
Figure 1. A replica of the partial skeleton of the adult Homo floresiensis LB1 specimen (probably female) displayed at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC, in 2013.


The recovered elements of the LB1 partial adult skeleton (the holotype of Homo floresiensis) included “the cranium and mandible, femora, tibiae, fibulae and patellae, partial pelvis, incomplete hands and feet, and fragments of vertebrae, sacrum, ribs, scapulae and clavicles.”4 The LB1 skeleton (figure 1) was found in Sector VII, with there being “no stratigraphic or artefactual evidence for deliberate burial.”5

In 2005, further Homo floresiensis remains, from excavations carried out in the Liang Bua limestone cave (figure 2) in 2004, were described. These included “arm bones belonging to the holotype skeleton, a second adult mandible, and postcranial material from other individuals.”6 From this the researchers concluded that at least nine individuals were represented in the excavations up to the end of 2004, from Sectors IV, VII and XI.6


According to Morwood et al. in 2004, “Dating by radiocarbon (14C), luminescence, uranium-series and electron spin resonance (ESR) methods” indicated the existence of Homo floresiensis from before 38 ka until at least 18 ka (date of LB1).7 However, the above ages were discarded in 2016, with new dates obtained from various techniques, including 234U/230Th dating, infrared stimulated luminescence (IRSL) dating, thermoluminescence (TL) dating, radiocarbon (14C) dating of charcoal, and 40Ar/39Ar methods.8 As stated by Gramling, “many of the same scientists who made the discovery have radically revised their estimate of the fossils’ age [LB1 dated 18 ka], based on an exhaustive new analysis of the cave’s geology.”9 In the new results, Sutikna et al. reported that “the skeletal remains of H. floresiensis and the deposits containing them are dated to between about 100 and 60 kyr ago, whereas stone artefacts attributable to this species range from about 190 to 50 kyr in age.”10

Image: Rosino, Wikimedia / CC-BY-SA 2.0Photo of The Liang Bua Cave on the island of Flores, Indonesia
Figure 2. The Liang Bua Cave on the island of Flores, Indonesia, where the remains of Homo floresiensis were first discovered in 2003.

The LB1 specimen, previously dated to supposedly 18 ka, yet now from about 60 to 100 ka, appears to predate the arrival of Homo sapiens in the region, according to the evolutionary timeline. For an evolutionist, this makes it difficult to argue that the hobbit was a pathological modern human. Whatever the justification for the redating, the new age range certainly was convenient to those believing Homo floresiensis represented a new hominin species, as indicated by Gramling:

“That new, much older date range for H. floresiensis makes it ‘impossible to argue that it is a pathologically-dwarfed modern human,’ says Russell Ciochon, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Iowa in Iowa City who was not involved in the study. ‘In my opinion, this paper drives the final nail in the coffin’ of that hypothesis.”9

Whether those (evolutionists) advocating the pathological modern human hypothesis were silenced by the new dating is unclear, but they have been very quiet since. From the creation viewpoint, both the old and new dates are rejected, and so have little bearing on the interpretation of Homo floresiensis presented here. The redating illustrates the fickle nature of age estimates obtained from dating methods, as does the comment on it by Hawks:

“The new understanding of the stratigraphy of Liang Bua is just one step in this process, and we should expect that the geological age of these fossils will continue to be refined. Indeed, the most current result may itself turn out to be wrong, and we’ll need to change ideas again. Stranger things have happened before. Much stranger.”11

Australopithecine or Homo habilis

With a tiny stature and a very small brain, we must ask why Homo floresiensis was not initially classified as an australopithecine or a member of Homo habilis sensu lato (incorporating Homo rudolfensis). Whether the supposed geological age of Homo floresiensis is 18 ka, or 50 to 190 ka, it is still long after what evolutionists believe was the last known appearance of the genus Australopithecus, about 1.9 Ma (million years ago), or 0.87 Ma if you include the robust australopithecines in the genus Australopithecus.12 The last known appearance of specimens evolutionists assign to Homo habilis sensu lato is allegedly 1.65 Ma.12 Hence, if Homo floresiensis was an australopithecine it would mean, from an evolutionary perspective, a total revision of when these primates lived.

Also, as concluded in a lengthy examination elsewhere, Homo habilis sensu lato is a composite species, consisting mostly of specimens that can be incorporated into the australopithecine group (i.e. associated with the genus Australopithecus), as well as a few Homo erectus specimens wrongly categorized.13 Hence, Homo habilis is an illusory species. I regard all australopithecines, including the ones evolutionists assign to Homo habilis sensu lato, as extinct apish primates.

Apart from morphology (more later), another problem with attributing Homo floresiensis to the australopithecines is that the latter are believed by evolutionists to have originated in Africa, and are currently only found in Africa,14 as are those specimens assigned to Homo habilis sensu lato.15 Consequently, for them to travel from Africa to Flores Island, Indonesia, requires migrating a considerable distance on land without leaving a trace in the fossil record, then building watercraft for the final part of their journey, the latter a feat seemingly beyond their level of intelligence.


The stone artefacts associated with the Homo floresiensis finds raise a problem with attributing the maker of the artefacts to the australopithecines, as that implies they had human-like intelligence. According to Wong:

“Earlier hominids with brains similar in size to that of H. floresiensis made only simple flake tools at most. But in the same stratigraphic levels as the hominid remains at Liang Bua, researchers found a suite of sophisticated artifacts—including awls, blades and points—exhibiting a level of complexity previously thought to be the sole purview of H. sapiens.”16

Evidence indicates that the toolmakers at Liang Bua were able to use fire and hunt dwarfed stegodonts, indicating they were very intelligent.17 If LB1, and other individuals regarded as Homo floresiensis, suffered from pathology, it is unclear whether they participated in making and using the tools, or whether the tools were made and used by non-pathological individuals of the same human population.

The finding of stone tools on Flores had previously been reported. This was at Mata Menge, and dated to between supposedly 0.80 and 0.88 Ma. The artefacts were said to have been “produced by Homo erectus rather than Homo sapiens.18 According to Morwood et al.:

“Even at times when the sea level was lowest, water crossings were necessary to reach Flores from Southeast Asia. We conclude that Homo erectus in this region was capable of repeated water crossings using watercraft.”19

The authors did not believe Homo sapiens existed around 0.8 Ma, and so attributed the manufacture and use of the artefacts, as well as the ability to make water crossings, to Homo erectus.

A later paper on excavations at Mata Menge suggested that

“… the stone artefacts from Mata Menge and Liang Bua [the ones associated with Homo floresiensis] represent a continuous technology made by the same hominin lineage.”20 The authors stated that “the age of the site [Mata Menge] clearly precludes modern humans”, with the “the first skeletal evidence currently available for modern humans on the island, at Liang Bua around 10.5 kyr BP,” being “associated with various changes and additions to the stone artefact record”.20

Contrasting views

The position on the original paper announcing the ‘new’ species Homo floresiensis was that the “most likely explanation for its existence on Flores is long-term isolation, with subsequent endemic dwarfing, of an ancestral H. erectus population.”4 However, several years later, at least some of the authors did an about-face, concluding:

“… that the Liang Bua individuals collectively have such a range of primitive morphological traits that they are unlikely to be derived from insular dwarfing of an ancestral Homo erectus population, as we assumed in the initial description of Homo floresiensis.”21

According to the late Mike Morwood and Penny van Oosterzee:

“Instead, morphological traits of Homo floresiensis indicate that the ancestral population in continental Asia, and subsequently Flores, was a habilinelike, or even more primitive hominid species, with australopithecine body proportions, small brain and short stature. Furthermore, we would argue that this lineage exited Africa between 2.6 and 1.8 Million years ago—i.e. after hominids began making stone artefacts, but before hominids occupied Dmanisi.”22

But in 2011, the original ‘Hobbit’ position seemed back in favour, at least among some experts:

“… we conclude from detailed study of LB1 craniofacial shape and surface morphology that this endemic species could have descended from an early Pleistocene H. erectus population in Java or elsewhere in Southeast Asia. If so, then the process would have included drastic body and brain size dwarfism and facial gracilization, as originally proposed.”23

After the 2016 announcement of additional Homo floresiensis-like fossils, including a mandible fragment and six isolated teeth, from at least three individuals, dated to supposedly ~0.7 Ma, at Mata Menge, Flores,24 paleoanthropologists Spoor and Stringer agreed that Homo erectus was “now the best fit for the hobbit’s ancestor.”25 According to van den Bergh et al.:

“The Mata Menge fossils are derived compared with Australopithecus and H. habilis, and so tend to support the view that H. floresiensis is a dwarfed descendent of early Asian H. erectus. Our findings suggest that hominins on Flores had acquired extremely small body size and other morphological traits specific to H. floresiensis at an unexpectedly early time.”24

It is not unreasonable to suggest that the finds from Liang Bua (Homo floresiensis) and Mata Menge are related, although the small mandibular fragment (SOA-MM4 right mandibular corpus) from Mata Menge, believed to be from an adult individual, and the other small, isolated teeth also from the same location, do not reveal much except that there were small-jawed individuals living there.26

While SOA-MM4 indicates a very small individual, the jaw seemingly smaller than the jaws at Liang Bua, its mandibular corpus (body) dimensions (e.g. corpus height at M2: 18 mm; corpus width at M2: 12.5 mm27) appear comparable in size to the very small human KRM 16424 adult right lower jaw fragment (corpus height at M2: 20 mm; corpus width at M2: 13 mm28) from Klasies River Mouth, South Africa. The ‘Klasies Middle Stone Age’ people were regarded by Rightmire and Deacon as having “robust but essentially modern anatomy.”29 Hence, small jaws, whether from Liang Bua or Mata Menge, cannot be used as a reason for not classifying them as human. Also, humans small in stature are common on Flores today,30 so it should not be unexpected to find them having lived there in the past.

A ‘phylogenetic’ analysis by Argue et al. in 2017 suggested that “H. floresiensis is a long-surviving relict of an early (>1.75 Ma) hominin lineage and a hitherto unknown migration out of Africa, and not a recent derivative of either H. erectus or H. sapiens.”31

With such different positions on Homo floresiensis by those who believe it is a new species, they can hardly complain that other, non-evolutionary, positions have been put forth as explanations. During the early days of the hobbit controversies there was a focus on microcephaly as explaining Homo floresiensis, at least regarding the LB1 specimen, as discussed by me earlier.32,33 Microcephaly is a pathological condition where the human brain does not develop properly, resulting in a head smaller than normal. Any explanation of the LB1 specimen needs to account for its abnormally small brain.

Apart from a human with microcephaly,34-37 other possible human pathologies suggested to explain the Homo floresiensis LB1 specimen have included Laron Syndrome,38 myxoedematous endemic cretinism,39 Down Syndrome,40 and an unspecified developmental abnormality.41 Gary Richards suggested that the individuals attributed to Homo floresiensis represented a variant of Homo sapiens “possessing a combined growth hormone–insulin-like growth factor I axis modification and mutation of the MCPH gene family.”42 It is not here the goal to explain and contrast these positions. In the following sections, some features of interest in Homo floresiensis are described, along with plausible explanations involving cretinism where relevant.43

Limb proportions and stature

Compared with modern humans, the arms of LB1 are long in relation to the legs.44 The limb proportions, as indicated by the humerofemoral index (ratio of humerus to femur length), was measured to be 85.4 % for LB1. This is said to be outside the range of variation for Homo sapiens, but the same as the AL 288-1 (Lucy) Australopithecus afarensis skeleton, “and midway between the indices for apes and humans.”45 For comparisons, the estimated humerofemoral index in Australopithecus afarensis is 85%,46 while the mean of a sample of Homo sapiens and Pan troglodytes (common chimpanzee) was 71.2% and 101.7%, respectively.47

According to Obendorf et al., “Human cretins have long arms relative to legs, and the humerofemoral index variable and up to 78”,48 which is lower than the index measured for LB1 (85.4), but higher than the mean sample of Homo sapiens (71.2). According to Leroi, “Careful measurements of pygmies (and thousands of them have been measured) show that compared to taller people, pygmies have relatively short legs but relatively long arms.”49 Hence, the human body ‘sized’ down to the pygmy level may result in limbs that do not scale down proportionally. Whether the above explains the humerofemoral index of the LB1 individual is unclear.

According to evolutionist Gary Richards:

“While noting both local and regional variation in pygmy populations, short-statured populations in Africa and Southeast Asia have a combined range for stature of c. 126.2–172.1 cm for males and c. 116.5–163.0 cm for females … . The Efe and Mbuti pygmies, who inhabit the Ituri forest of Zaire, are considered to have the shortest statures for any living human group, although a normal Aka female possessed a stature of only 116.5 cm … .”50

The stature of another Homo floresiensis individual (LB8) was estimated, in 2005, to be 109 cm (based on LB8 tibia length), although Morwood et al. opined that “LB8 was probably a shorter individual than LB1, who had an estimated stature of 106 cm on the basis of femur length … , a more reliable proxy for stature.”51 Some critics of Homo floresiensis as a new species, as opposed to being a diseased human, have claimed that the 106 cm stature estimate of the LB1 height “was the absolute minimum of the actual possible range, reaching as high as 1.35 meters, with an average oscillating height around 1.25 meters—which falls inside the range of statures observed among villagers on Flores.”52 While still low, if the stature of LB1 was towards the higher range of the above estimates, then it would fall within the range of known short-statured populations. A small stature, associated with severe growth retardation, is a feature common in hypothyroid cretins,53 and so the small stature attributed to Homo floresiensis fits the cretinism model.


Anthropologist Aiello is quoted as saying that the pelvis of the LB1 skeleton “‘is virtually identical to that of an australopithecine,’ much wider than the modern human pelvis”.44 However, according to Richards:

“Morphological features of the skeleton (wide pelvis, long arms relative to legs, tibial cross-sectional shape, etc.) that are said to link H. floresiensis with early hominids are also found in modern human pygmy populations. Some of these features have been described as ‘primitive’ in pygmies and most are linked to body size reduction.”54

In the original paper the LB1 pelvis ilium was described as having a ‘marked lateral flare’ compared with modern humans.55 About a year later, it was noted that “The more complete left ilium … also indicates that the pelvis is flared antero-laterally, consistent with an australopithecine-shaped thoracic region.”45 However, as stated by Culotta:

“Although previous publications had described the pelvis as similar to those of the much more primitive australopithecines, Jungers found that the orientation of the pelvic blades is modern. The observation adds weight to the notion that hobbits had H. erectus, rather than australopithecine, ancestry.”56

Although the LB1 pelvis has a lateral iliac flare, the iliac blade surface of its left hip bone (os coxae) LB1/7 is curved due to a concave iliac fossa, not flared with a flat iliac fossa, as in some australopithecines (e.g. AL 288-1).57 A similar lateral iliac flare (flared but curved) is also found in specimens of Homo heidelbergensis (SH Pelvis 1) and the Neanderthals (Kebara 2),57 that are both undoubtedly members of human groups. Also, lateral iliac flare of the pelvis has been observed in cretinism.58

Shoulder joint orientation

Although fragments of the LB1 scapulae (shoulder blades) were reportedly found,4 further descriptions of these fragments are difficult to find. However, an adult right scapula (LB6/4) from individual LB6 was reported in 2005.59 LB6/4 was described as a “nearly complete right scapula,” and, after measuring several angles on the scapula, Larson et al. reported that “None of these angles appears to be statistically different from those of modern humans”.60

The angle between the ventral bar and the glenoid cavity (ventral bar/glenoid angle) indicates the orientation of the glenoid cavity (the shallow depression on the scapula where the head of the humerus fits), with lower angles indicating more cranially oriented shoulder joints.61 Regarding the LB6/4 scapula, its ventral bar/glenoid angle was measured to be 157°, said to be “in the range of modern humans”.62

In 2017 Feuerriegel et al. listed the mean ventral bar/glenoid angle for a number of fossil specimens and extant species, including Homo sapiens (142.4°), Pongo pygmaeus/abelii (orangutans; 131.4°), Pan troglodytes (common chimpanzee; 127.9°), Gorilla gorilla (130.2°), Hylobates sp. (gibbons; 121.1°), KNM-WT 15000 (Homo erectus; 137.5°), MH2 (Australopithecus sediba; 131.2°), AL 288-1 (Australopithecus afarensis; 132.2°), and Sts 7 (Australopithecus africanus; 128.0°).63 This indicates that the shoulder joint of the LB6 Homo floresiensis individual was oriented more laterally than the average Homo sapiens, and not more upwards, as in apes and the australopithecines. Hence, Homo floresiensis individuals, as represented by LB6, were unlikely to have hung in the trees.

The foot

The LB1 partial skeleton is said to include “a relatively complete left foot and parts of the right foot”, and according to Junger et al.:

“LB1’s foot is exceptionally long relative to the femur and tibia, proportions never before documented in hominins but seen in some African apes. Although the metatarsal robusticity sequence is human-like and the hallux is fully adducted, other intrinsic proportions and pedal features are more ape-like. The postcranial anatomy of H. floresiensis is that of a biped.”64

Consider the large foot of LB1. What at first seems ape-like, when viewed from a different perspective, can have a different explanation:

“Though cretins have absolutely small feet, they have even shorter limbs so that the ratios of foot length to leg length and lower limb length have values (76–84% and 35–43%) similar to apes. Further, LB1 has ape-like metatarsal and phalangeal ratios, and ape-like morphology of individual tarsal bones. Again, these same features are also found in cretins.”65

Oxnard explains the relatively large and wide hands and feet (and lower face) in cretins:

“Thus, though growth is slowed everywhere in cretins, it is slowed relatively less in those parts that, even in normal humans, continue to grow throughout life, hence relatively larger hand and foot skeletons (and also, as it happens, relatively larger lower face and especially lower jaw).”66

The proximal pedal phalanges of LB1 were considered relatively long with respect to metatarsal lengths, and moderately curved, compared to the short, straight toes of modern humans.67 On the medial longitudinal arch of the LB1 foot, Junger et al. stated that, as in the australopithecines and great apes, it “was probably weakly developed or absent in LB1”, and later that it “lacks a well-defined medial longitudinal arch”.67 A later article by Jungers et al. observed the “hallux is fully adducted, but we suspect that a medial longitudinal arch was absent.”68 Hence, while they seem confident that the LB1 foot had an adducted hallux (i.e. the big toe was in line with the other toes, and so non-opposable, as in humans), there is less certainty on the nature of the medial longitudinal arch.

As stated by DeSilva and Throckmorton, “All primates possess a transverse arch, but only humans have a longitudinal arch making non-human primates anatomically and functionally flat-footed.”69 The longitudinal arch is involved in storing elastic energy, and it “maintains the structural rigor of the foot during the push-off stage of bipedal locomotion”.69 The longitudinal arch also “acts as a shock absorber, mitigating ground reaction forces generated during the foot flat stage of the gait cycle.”69

However, flatfoot is a frequently encountered pathology in both pediatric70 and adult71 human populations, and so cannot be regarded as a ‘primitive’ condition in modern humans. Consequently, its possible presence in the foot of the LB1 Homo floresiensis individual is not that significant, apart from the possibility that it was part of a broader pathology.

The hand

Analysis of three LB1 wrist bones, but particularly the trapezoid, was said by Tocheri et al. to show “that it retains wrist morphology that is primitive for the African ape-human clade.”72 However, this ‘primitive’ trapezoid shape is also seen in cretinism:

“Small trapezoids do, however, sometimes occur in adult human cretins because there may be delayed ossification of the ventral portion of the bone in younger cretins, or failure of fusion of the two parts of the bone with loss of the smaller ventral portion after death … . A young adult cretin (Basle, specimen 84, male) shows exactly such an incomplete trapezoid lacking a ventral tip adjacent to a normal capitate.”65

According to Oxnard et al., the small LB1 trapezoid does not fit in the carpal row of a chimpanzee but does appear to “articulate well in the shallow dorsal curve of the human carpal tunnel”.65 Hence, what is interpreted as an ape-like trapezoid bone is an incomplete human trapezoid with a missing ventral portion.73

The curvature (in dorsopalmar plane) of the shaft of a complete proximal manual phalanx (LB6/8) of the LB6 individual was described as falling “at the extreme upper end of the human range and overlaps with gorillas. It is similar in this respect to A.L. 333w-4, an Australopithecus afarensis specimen.”74 The two incomplete proximal manual phalanges (LB1/62 and LB1/61) of the LB1 individual were said to “lack their proximal bases and varying degrees of their shafts”, but their shafts were said to “appear to be relatively straight, but this is difficult to judge conclusively without an articular base.”75

No information appears to be given on the curvature of the intermediate manual phalanges of the LB1 and LB6 Homo floresiensis individuals.76 Hence, when Kivell, regarding the proximal phalanges of Homo floresiensis, stated they are “curved to a similar degree as in Au. Afarensis,”77 one presumes she was referring to the proximal LB6/8 finger bone. According to Kivell:

“… there is a well-documented archaeological sequence at Flores clearly demonstrating that stone tool making and use were part of the behavioural repertoire of H. floresiensis from as early as 840 ka … . Thus, the direct association between the largely primitive hand of H. floresiensis and stone tools (produced via a simple reduction sequence …) calls into question our traditional assumptions about the necessary morphological features and biomechanical consequences of stone tool production.”77

Curvature in the fingers is usually caused by mechanical strain from habitual behavior, such as the high loads experienced when grasping during climbing or moving through the trees suspended by the hands.78,77 However, the curvature could also potentially be caused by habitual tool use, or some other repetitive use of the hands.

As discussed above, the shoulder joint of the LB6 individual indicates it is unlikely that this individual’s curved fingers were from hanging in the trees. This conclusion is consistent with that of Peter Brown, the principal author of the first Nature Homo floresiensis paper, admitting in National Geographic, in 2005, that, regarding the LB1 skeleton, “‘Her arms hung almost to her knees’, says Brown, but her delicate hand and wrist bones imply that ‘she wasn’t doing a lot of climbing.’”79

That there is ‘well-documented’ evidence that stone tool-making and use were part of the ‘behavioural repertoire’ of Homo floresiensis, likely explains the curved fingers in the LB6 individual. There is no cranium for the LB6 individual (only a mandible); consequently the size of its brain is unknown. Brown and Maeda believed the sex of LB6 (an adult) is probably female (as is LB1), and stated that “The LB6 mandible, and its likely associated postcrania, are from a smaller individual than LB1.”80 Whether the LB6 individual was also pathological is more difficult to be definite about than LB1, as it is much less complete than LB1, although those arguing for the cretinism hypothesis believed both LB1 and LB6 were cretins.81

Frequent stone toolmaking and use might explain the finger curvature seen in LB6, but whether cretinism contributes to this effect is unclear. This is because the pathological state of the more incomplete LB6 individual appears less certain than LB1, and the proximal finger bones of the partial LB1 skeleton were not complete enough to give a definite answer on whether they were curved or not.

The skull

The initial Homo floresiensis paper stated:

“Although LB1 has the small endocranial volume and stature evident in early australopithecines, it does not have the great postcanine tooth size, deep and prognathic facial skeleton, and masticatory adaptations common to members of this genus.”82

Rather, it argued:

“… the facial and dental proportions, postcranial anatomy consistent with human-like obligate bipedalism … , and a masticatory apparatus most similar in relative size and function to modern humans … all support assignment to the genus Homo—as does the inferred phylogenetic history, which includes endemic dwarfing of H. erectus.”83

From their analyses, Baab and McNulty noted that the overall shape of the LB1 neurocranium showed “greatest similarities to early African/Georgian H. erectus.84 See figure 3 for frontal view comparisons of the Georgian Homo erectus, modern human and LB1 skulls. Also, Lyras et al. concluded that the overall cranial morphology of LB1 was most similar to Homo erectus.85

Photo by Peter LinePhoto of Frontal views of a cast of Homo erectus Skulls
Figure 3. Frontal views of a cast of the Dmanisi (Georgian) Homo erectus Skull 3 (left; D2700 cranium and D2735 jaw), a cast of the adult (probably female) LB1 Homo floresiensis skull (middle), and a replica adult modern human female skull (right).

Peter Brown, the first author of the initial Homo floresiensis paper, appears to have moved away from the dwarfed Homo erectus explanation. After examining the morphology of the LB1, LB2, and LB6 mandibles, as well as the mandibular teeth, Brown and Maeda stated, “the mandibles demonstrate that they share a distinctive suite of traits that place them outside both the H. sapiens and H. erectus ranges of variation.”86 According to them:

“When the mandibles are considered with the existing evidence for cranial and postcranial anatomy, limb proportions, and the functional anatomy of the wrist and shoulder, they are in many respects closer to African early Homo or Australopithecus than to later Homo. Taken together, this evidence suggests that the ancestors of H. floresiensis left Africa before the evolution of H. erectus, as defined by the Dmanisi and East African evidence.”86

However, a paper by Kaifu et al. in 2011, analyzing in detail the external morphology of the Homo floresiensis LB1 cranium (LB1/1), found the LB1 cranium to be “most similar to early Javanese Homo erectus from Sangiran and Trinil”.87 Kaifu et al. concluded “that the craniofacial morphology of LB1 is consistent with the hypothesis that H. floresiensis evolved from early Javanese H. erectus with dramatic island dwarfism.”87 See figure 4 for comparison of the LB1 and Sangiran 17 crania. Kaifu et al. later reported on the dental remains of Homo floresiensis, where they stated their results were consistent with the “hypothesis that H. floresiensis derived from an earlier Asian Homo erectus population and experienced substantial body and brain size dwarfism in an isolated insular setting.”88

Photo by Peter LinePhoto of right lateral views of the casts of the adult Homo floresiensis skulls
Figure 4. Right lateral views of the casts of the adult (probably female) LB1 Homo floresiensis cranium (right), and adult (presumed male) Homo erectus Sangiran 17 cranium (left) from Java, Indonesia.

Congenital hypothyroidism is said to be able to “reduce brain size by approximately 50%.”89 Oxnard argues that small parent populations in terms of brain size (e.g. pygmoid crania) could have given rise to cretins with brain sizes as small as 400 cc.90 According to Oxnard et al.:

“Thus, normal South East Asian pygmoid crania of 800–1000 ml have been recorded … . On this basis, cretins from such populations could have brain sizes as small as 400–500 ml, based on scaling of height and brain size found among European endemic cretins.”91

Published cranial capacity values for the LB1 cranium has varied (380 cc to 430 cc), with one of the more recent estimates 426 cc.92 Hence, at least in theory, the small brain of LB1 could be explained by cretinism.

Discussion and conclusion

Opinion about Homo floresiensis is divided even among those who believe it is a new species. One group sees it as a dwarfed Homo erectus, while the other group views it as derived from an ‘early’ Homo species (like Homo habilis) or Australopithecus. Running parallel to the above debate, at least for a while, was the belief by some that Homo floresiensis was a pathological modern human, with the cretinism explanation favoured by me, albeit not necessarily of a modern human.

The artefacts at the Liang Bua excavation site were said to exhibit “a level of complexity previously thought to be the sole purview of H. sapiens.”16 It is hard to understand why evolutionists want Homo floresiensis recognized as a new species of hominin, given that it does not fit the standard evolutionary story that hominid brains got larger as they increased in intelligence. According to evolutionist John Allen:

“Taken as a whole, including both its morphology and provenance, the Hobbit fits about as well into the accepted view of hominid evolution—especially with reference to cranial capacity—as the Piltdown hoax. Piltdown was a combination of a human cranium with an ape jaw.”93

Rather, a bone developmental pathology, in particular cretinism (a non-genetic disorder), seems more plausible. Goitre is a swelling of the neck from an enlarged thyroid gland, usually caused by dietary iodine deficiency. Iodine deficient populations in a region also increase the likelihood of cretinism in that region. There is usually a correlation between the prevalence of endemic goitre and endemic cretinism, as iodine deficiency is fundamental in the etiology of endemic cretinism, believed caused by damage to the thyroid during fetal life.94

Concerning goitre rates in Flores, Oxnard stated, “Today’s goitre rates imply that prior hunter-gatherer populations in the hills should have been severely iodine-deficient and would regularly have produced cretins.”95 Apparently, soils nearby the Liang Bua limestone cave, where the LB1 partial skeleton was found, are “alkaline and probably therefore iodine-deficient,” and along with other factors (e.g. locality of site), are said to “have precluded access to iodine-rich seafoods.”96

Many features of cretinism appear to mimic so-called ‘primitive’ features of evolution, which makes it easy to make mistakes in interpretation, particularly if holding an evolutionary viewpoint. According to Oxnard:

“It is remarkable that so many features similar to those normally present in great apes, in Australopithecus and Paranthropus, and in early Homo (e.g. H. erectus and even to some degree, H. neanderthalensis) but not in modern H. sapiens are generated in humans by growth deficits due to the absence of thyroid hormone. In other words, many of the pathological features of cretinism mimic the primitive characters of evolution making it easy to mistake pathological features for primitive characters.”97

Postcranially, Homo floresiensis appears to fit with cretinism in many aspects, although not all cretins are expected to have the same features. According to Oxnard et al.: “cretins are enormously more variable than unaffected humans in many features (as would be expected in a pathology with different degrees of affect, and conflation with associated conditions)”.98

Consequently, if some Homo floresiensis individuals were cretins, their morphological features may still have differed. It is likely that only a relatively small percentage were cretins.

There exist small-bodied people on Flores Island, Indonesia today. In a recent study, DNA analysis of 32 members of an extant human pygmy population (average height 145 cm) living on Flores, in the village of Rampasasa, near the Liang Bua Cave where Homo floresiensis was found, reported that: “The genomes of Flores pygmies reveal a complex history of admixture with Denisovans and Neanderthals but no evidence for gene flow with other archaic hominins,” such as Homo floresiensis or Homo erectus.99 According to Gibbons, “The team found no trace of archaic DNA that could be from the hobbit.”100 At least three DNA laboratories have attempted to obtain DNA from Homo floresiensis, but were unsuccessful up until August 2018.101 Hence, as the DNA of the ‘hobbit’ is unknown, the above study is making the unproven evolutionary assumption that Homo floresiensis was a different species of human.

Maybe the reason there is no trace of the ‘hobbit’ in the DNA is that it never was a new or different species, but a diseased human, possibly even a pathological Homo erectus human. The DNA of Homo erectus is also unknown, but the extant human Rampasasa pygmy population have traces of the mysterious Denisovans and Neanderthals in their genome. One wonders whether the Denisovans were erectus-like people.

That a detailed analysis concluded that “LB1 is most similar to early Javanese Homo erectus from Sangiran and Trinil”87 raises the possible scenario that Homo floresiensis may have been a robust type of human (e.g. Homo erectus) with cretinism. Another possible scenario is that ‘modern’ humans and Homo erectus interbred on Flores, and individuals like LB1 are the resultant offspring of such interbreeding, albeit with pathology. Regardless, specimens labelled Homo erectus and Homo floresiensis were descendants of Adam and Eve, and so fully human.

Posted on homepage: 26 January 2024

References and notes

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