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Homo Floresiensis ('Hobbits'; Small Archaic Humans)

On "hobbits".....

And here's my tangent: Upon reading headlines declaring the discovery of a real-life "hobbit", I was torn. Though I applaud the media's embrace of florensiensis, the pop-cultural reference to Bilbo Baggins and Elijah Wood clashed with my dedication to making anthropology a more respected field of study. Anthropology is not a joke; I regret that the scientists who discovered h. florensiensis chose to use the Tolkein allusion to describe a new species. I feel that the term "hobbit" belittles (no pun intended) this incredibly significant find. Then again, there is the old saying that any publicity is good publicity; certainly the term "hobbit" caught many eyes as people skimmed newspaper headlines. Oh, my heart hurts! :cry:
anthrochick said:
Mr. R.I.N.G. said:
SO does this mean there are three types of humaniod creature that has walked the earth - humans, neatherthals, and the Floresiensis?

In addition to homo sapiens sapiens, neanderthals and homo florensiensis, there are probably a dozen or so other known species of "humanoids". Lucy, the infamous australopithicus afarensis specimen (named for a certain acid-inspired Beatles song) dates back some 4 million years. Of course, I would expect the discovery of many more species of humanoids in the future. Yay for anthropology :D

He possibly meant in that specific time frame ;)

If so then around 100,000 years we have:

early modern humans: Africa and Near east

Neanderthals: Eurasia from Finland to Spain and the UK to Siberia.

late Homo erectus: China and down into Indonesia (they appear to be pretty much the smae species)

Homo floresiensis: Isolated island(s) beyond the Wallace Line.

Its always possible that there were other groups in isolated areas and some of what we think are the same species (especially the late erectus) might be from different species but there is no good evidence to support this - always wise to try for a middle course between extreme lumping and extreme splitting ;)

And welcome on board :)
Hobbit skeleton 'damaged'
Leigh Dayton, Science writer
March 11, 2005
AN Australian archaeologist has drafted a damning letter describing extensive damage to the bones of the "Hobbit", the 18,000-year-old hominid remains found on an Indonesian island.

But his Indonesian counterpart has refused to send it, fearing a scientific backlash.

The letter, written by Mike Morwood of the University of New England in Armidale, NSW, accuses a prominent Indonesian paleoanthropologist of causing the damage.

The letter to 79-year-old Teuku Jacob of Gadjah Mada University in Yogjakarta accuses him of engaging in "totally unprofessional" behaviour regarding the remains.

Speaking from Jakarta, Associate Professor Morwood said: "It needs to be a matter of record."

Along with Indonesian archaeologist Radien Soejono, Professor Morwood co-led the team that discovered the ancient skeleton on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003.

Despite documentary evidence and contradiction from key scientists, Professor Jacob denies damaging the delicate remains after he took them to his laboratory last year.

"The fossils were not damaged," Professor Jacob said.

"We have pictures taken until the last day (they were in my laboratory) and they are intact." He was reportedly forced to return the specimens last month after pressure from the international media and Indonesian politicians, who were embarrassed by the incident.

Tony Djubiantono, director of the International Centre for Archaeology in Jakarta, disagreed with Professor Jacob's contention that the damage occurred as the fossils were being transported back to the centre.

"This is impossible . . . I don't believe that," said Dr Djubiantono, who claimed he argued with Professor Jacob over the matter.

Still, after meeting with Professor Morwood on Wednesday, Dr Djubiantono decided against signing and sending the letter.

Dr Djubiantono claimed that Professor Jacob threatened to "blow up this story like a fire" and put future research at risk if an official complaint was made.

Dr Djubiantono said he was "not worried" that the centre's reputation would suffer if Professor Jacob was not held accountable for the damage.

"He's an old man looking out for his position," he said
Tiny Humans

There is a program on TV tonight (Sun mar 13) on discovery 8PM est ,I think, about archeoligists finding bones and other evidence of a race of tiny humans.
Could this be the basis for so many of the Gnome,Elf and other little people sightings through history?
A must watch for the curious.
Sounds like the same thing,I just saw the ad for it on the telly a few moments ago and did not catch his name.
Guess it belongs there.
eccentric said:
Sounds like the same thing,I just saw it on the telly a few moments ago and did not catch his name.
Guess it belongs there.

OK merged - so was it any good?

I assume it'll be shown here at some point and I am looking forward to it.
I saw the Homo Floresiensis program on Homo Floresienses at 7PM Central Time (National Geographic Channel, Explorer program) and recommend it highly. It has all the limitations of this sort of program, but you get a really good look at the skull in comparison with normal sapiens, a microcephelac, a pygmy, a normal erectus, and more than one non-human primate; the cast of the brain is specifically compared to other brains and interesting features pointed out, and you are given plenty of good visuals to judge for yourself. The brain is distinctive, shaped more like an erectus brain than a modern human's, and yet different from that either. You also get several good views of the site, including an up-close visual, with explanation, of the eruption layer.

See it if you can.
Well , Peni beat me to it. Pretty much sums it up.
I found it fascinating though.
And it goes on - this is really bad news:

Posted 3/21/2005 9:53 PM

Fresh scandal over old bones

By Dan Vergano, USA TODAY

Inside Liang Bua cave on the Indonesian island of Flores, the bones of the hobbit rested undisturbed for 18,000 years.

But no longer.

In what is being called a true case of scientific skullduggery, the remains of the newly discovered human species have suffered irreparable damage since entering the care of paleontologists.

The damage to the bones of this diminutive being — named Homo floresiensis and nicknamed hobbit by scientists — is so extensive that it will limit scholarly research on the species, say members of the Indonesian Center for Archaeology-based discovery team.

Considered the most important discovery in human origins in five decades, the remains are marred by broken jaws and smashed bones.

"The equivalent in the world of art would be somebody slashing the Mona Lisa and then trying to fix it with chewing gum," says paleontologist Tim White of the University of California-Berkeley, who was not on the discovery team.

Reported in October's Nature magazine by a team of Australian and Indonesian researchers, the discovery of Homo floresiensis shocked paleontologists. The beings lived on Flores from at least 94,000 to 13,000 years ago, making them the only human species besides Neanderthals that lived alongside modern man, Homo sapiens, in ancient times.

Despite having chimp-sized brains and standing about 3 feet tall, they hunted pygmy elephants and Komodo dragons using complex stone blades and axes like those then wielded by modern humans.

A reconstruction of the hobbit's face is on the cover of April's National Geographic, and the National Geographic Channel's Search for the Ultimate Survivor (April 1, 8 p.m. ET) highlights hobbit links to pre-human species.

In November, the research took a bizarre turn into the politics of paleontology. Teuku Jacob of Gadjah Mada University, an Indonesian scientist unaffiliated with the discovery team, took the partly fossilized bones to his lab in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, 275 miles away from their repository in Jakarta.

What followed was a standoff that set an older generation of Indonesian and Australian paleontologists against younger scientists. Jacob, 75, is considered Indonesia's most prominent paleontologist, a role with added status in a country that reveres age and seniority.

On the other side is the team of scientists that is based at the Indonesian Center for Archaeology but whose work is funded by the Australian Research Council.

Aside from four leg bones that remain in Jacob's custody, the fossils were returned on Feb. 23. The team charges the remains were severely damaged by rubber molds made at Jacob's lab:

• Much of the detail at the base of the skull was pulled off.

• The left outer eye socket and two teeth were broken off and glued back. Bits of molded rubber still adhere to some sections.

• Long, deep cuts mark the lower edge of the hobbit's jaw on both sides, left by a blade used to cut away molded rubber.

• The chin of a second hobbit jaw was snapped off, losing bone. It was glued back together misaligned and at an incorrect angle.

• The pelvis was smashed, perhaps in transit, destroying details that reveal body shape, gait and evolutionary history.

"We have a big dispute with Professor Jacob," says Tony Djubiantono, chief of the archaeology center and co-leader of the team. "We didn't give him permission to do any of these things."

The return of the bones to the Jakarta center is cloaked in mystery, says discovery team member Richard Roberts of Australia's University of Wollongong. The team believes the government intervened. Paleoanthropologist Harry Widianto of the Yogyakarta Archaeology Agency was sent to get the bones.

When he got them to his own lab before shipping them to Jakarta, Widianto says, "We opened the packages and saw the mandibles (jaws) were damaged."

In a phone conversation with USA TODAY, Jacob said he would respond to the charges by e-mail. In that e-mail, he acknowledges that molds were made in his lab to create display casts but denies that the bones were damaged there.

"If some breakage took place on any bone, it must be during the transport in Yogyakarta or from Yogyakarta to Jakarta," Jacob says. "Both mandibles were intact until the last minute in our lab, as proven by photographs taken on the last days." He did not respond to a request for the photos.

In Science magazine, Jacob defended borrowing the hobbit bones as standard practice with new fossil discoveries in Indonesia.

Paleontologist Maciej Henneberg of Australia's University of Adelaide defends Jacob: "I never had any doubts that Professor Jacob and his colleagues did not damage any bones. They are excellent professionals with long experience in handling precious human remains."

However, White notes that Jacob's lab lacks experience with wet fossils such as the hobbit, which were waterlogged when discovered and were the consistency of mud. Even dried, the remains were seen as too fragile to ever mold by the discovery team. Instead, they took CT scans of the bones.

Damage to the pelvis during travel raises "the question of why an evidently very fragile specimen apparently was uncaringly transported from its permanent repository and halfway across Java in the first place," says paleontologist Ian Tattersall of the American Museum of Natural History.

Discovery team member Roberts scoffs at the notion that travel caused all the damage: "Like the addition of a glued-on chin?"

In a 1998 profile, Science magazine said Jacob is Indonesia's "undisputed king of paleoanthropology," whose collection contains a broad swath of early human fossils from Indonesia. "Researchers around the world complain that Jacob's iron grip on the collection has slowed progress in understanding an important chapter of human development," the article said.

"He is a very senior scientist here, which makes it a difficult situation," Djubiantono says. The damage is particularly grievous, he says, because the fossil is the "type specimen" for the new species, the standard by which all finds will be measured for inclusion.

Even before reporting the damage, the discovery team had been dismayed by Jacob's actions:

• In news reports, Jacob dismissed the team's designation of Homo floresiensis as a new species, calling it "careless and too hasty." He said the fossils belong to a human pygmy with a brain disorder.

• Jacob invited anthropologists skeptical of the discovery, including Henneberg, to view the remains.

• Jacob allowed human-origins researcher Jean-Jacques Hublin of Germany's Max Plank Institute to take a small section of hobbit fossil to Germany for genetic analysis. "This is completely unethical," Roberts says. "This is freeloading on our discovery." Hublin did not respond to a request for comment.

In 1999, anthropologist representatives of 20 countries, including Indonesia and Germany, signed a resolution barring transfer of original hominid fossils from their country of origin without compelling scientific reasons.

"It is clear to me that the Indonesian government should appoint a neutral fact-finding body to fully investigate," White says.

The discovery team is excavating Liang Bua and scouting other caves. The team has partial remains of eight hobbits, including long arms that likely reached down to the knees. Jacob has stated he will publish his own findings as well.

"Putting aside our own egos, damage to the type specimen that is absolutely irretrievable is tragic for science," Roberts says. "This was something for Indonesia's posterity that should never have been damaged."


Its a pity as I have a lot of respect for Jean-Jacques Hublin's work and I'm unsure why he got involved apart form it being too good to turn down I suppose.
Channel 4 in the UK , is going to show an Equinox Special called

Riddle of the Human Hobbits at 9pm on Monday 2nd of May .

Should be interesting , hopefully .
Pygmy community found near home of hobbitsSource
INDONESIAN scientists have found a community of pygmy people in the eastern island of Flores.

The community is near a village where Australian scientists discovered a dwarf-sized skeleton last year and declared it a new human species.
The latest discovery will likely raise more controversy over the finding of Homo floresiensis, claimed by Australian scientists Mike Morwood and Peter Brown in September. They nick-named the skeleton a hobbit.

Kompas daily reported yesterday that the pygmy community had been found during an April 18-24 expedition in the village of Rampapasa, about 1km from the village of Liang Bua, where the species called Homo floresiensis was found.

The newspaper quoted Koeshardjono, a biologist who discovered the pygmy village, saying 77 families had been found there.

Teuku Jacob, a professor at Gadjah Mada University, who led the human anthropology research team, said 80 per cent of the Rampapasa villagers were small, with most male adults under 145cm and female adults about 135cm.

"The presence of the pygmy people there is both very interesting and surprising," Prof Jacob said. "For years, scientists from all over the world could only see their traces. Now we could find them living in a society.

"Mini people have been reportedly seen in Andaman and the province of Papua, but only a few remained and they have been difficult to find because they have been spreading to some areas."

In the November issue of the journal Nature, professors Morwood and Brown, who claimed the discovery together with Indonesian colleagues, said the species was thought to have evolved from Homo erectus, which spread out from Africa to Asia about two million years ago.

It became isolated on Flores and evolved into its dwarf form with a minuscule brain to conform to local conditions, such as food shortages.

The brain volume of the skeleton found is about 380 cubic centimetres, slightly smaller than a chimpanzee.

Prof Jacob, however, is challenging the claim, accusing them of committing "scientific terrorism" as the discovery was announced without the consent of the Indonesian archaeologists who participated in the find.

Maciej Henneberg, a biological anthropology and anatomy expert from the University of Adelaide, has said the dwarf-sized skeleton found on Flores last year does not represent a new species, Homo floresiensis, as claimed by professors Morwood and Brown.
Perhaps if we sent a team of UN archeologists over there to help protect the bones and bring them back to Europe where the latest technology can be used to analyse them and put them on display.

Oh wait...
RichardTheGreat said:
Channel 4 in the UK , is going to show an Equinox Special called

Riddle of the Human Hobbits at 9pm on Monday 2nd of May .

Should be interesting , hopefully .

The C4 mini-site:

Riddle of the Human Hobbits : An Equinox Special

Dr Martin Brookes

April 2005

Measuring little more than a metre in height, and with a brain the size of a grapefruit, Homo floresiensis may seem out of place on the human family tree. But according to the Indonesian and Australian scientists who discovered her fossilised skeleton on the island of Flores in Indonesia, Homo floresiensis, or 'Flo' for short, bears a strong resemblance to our closest evolutionary relative, albeit in miniature. Her relatively small teeth, prominent brow ridge, and low, broad brain case, all point towards a close affinity with that upright ancestor of ours, Homo erectus.

The Homo erectus link

In many ways, Homo erectus was the first rock star of the fossil world, leaving behind such celebrated remains as Java Man in Indonesia and Peking Man in China. But it was in Africa, almost two million years ago, where it all began. While other hominids were busy pursuing evolutionary dead ends, Homo erectus was discovering the joys of standing up straight. Here was the prototype human being.

Of course, the heavy brow, sloping forehead and invisible chin would stand out a mile in a modern identity parade, but in other respects, Homo erectus was remarkably similar to us. They stood erect, about 1.79 metres tall; they were agile and strong; and they certainly liked to travel. Fossils of Homo erectus have turned up throughout the Old World, which comprises Asia, Africa and Europe.

With a cranial capacity of about 1000 cubic centimetres, Homo erectus had a brain about three quarters the size of ours. But this was no numbskull. Here was a species that could make all kinds of innovative tools – vital objects, perhaps, in the transition from the hunted human to the human hunter. For Homo erectus was probably the first true hunter-gatherer; the first ancestor to make the shift from prey to predator.

Australopithecine angle

A link between Flo and Homo erectus is a plausible and compelling one, but it is by no means the only hypothesis in circulation. Finding consensus in the palaeo-anthropological community is more difficult than finding the missing link. With so many holes in the human story, opportunities for speculation are everywhere.

Her small stature and diminutive brain has led some researchers to suggest that Flo may be an offshoot of the australopithecines, a primitive group of hominids thought to be ancestral to Homo erectus. Certainly, in terms of size, there are australopithecine fossils that bear comparison to Flo. But there are serious problems with the australopithecine argument. Australopithecines have never been found outside Africa, and all fossil evidence suggests they died out about 1.5 million years ago. Flo, stuck on an Indonesian island, seems a little out of place, and, at 18,000 years old, a mere youngster by comparison. If Flo can count herself among their members, then a significant chapter of the human story will have to be rewritten.

The australopithecines first emerged about 4 million years ago. They seem to have been a diverse and successful group that roamed throughout Africa for about 2.5 million years. But the absence of australopithecine fossils beyond Africa suggests that they were probably not great colonisers.

The disappearance of australopithecines from the fossil record coincides with the gradual emergence of more modern human forms, characterised by larger body size, a more upright posture, striding limbs and an increase in brain capacity. Some have suggested that these evolutionary trends provided the necessary spur that set our ancestors on their migratory path throughout the Old World. It's a tempting tale scuppered somewhat by the recent discovery of a small and primitive 1.75 million-year-old hominid in Georgia, hundreds of miles north of Africa.

We're not alone

Whatever the truth about her identity, Flo has thrown a serious spanner in the works. It was widely assumed that when the Neanderthals went extinct, about 25,000 years ago, we were left as the planet's sole representatives of the Homo genus. Yet as Flo is estimated to have died only 18,000 years ago, her discovery not only challenges that claim, it distorts assumptions about the origins of our modern selves.

The conventional story goes something like this: modern humans first walked on Earth about 150,000 years ago. Our immediate ancestors were archaic forms of Homo sapiens, who were themselves descendants of Homo erectus. This much seems incontrovertible, for the time being at least. The disputes emerge in the details. How and where did this transition from the old to the new take place?

At one extreme, the 'Out of Africa', or replacement, hypothesis argues that modern humans evolved in Africa, from where they spread out to colonise and replace archaic populations across the globe. In this scenario, everyone alive today shares a relatively recent common ancestor of African origin. At the other extreme, the multiregional model argues that modern humans evolved separately, if simultaneously, in multiple locations throughout the Old World. If this version of events is true, it implies that the common ancestor of modern humans dates back 1.8 million years to Homo erectus in Africa.

Wherever the truth lies, the discoveries in Indonesia have taken both camps by surprise. In fact, Flo is just the latest in a string of remarkable finds. It was widely believed, for instance, that Homo erectus disappeared some 400,000 years ago. But recent excavations in Java have uncovered Homo erectus fossils dated at only 50,000 years old. Did these archaic populations come into contact with modern human populations then colonising Australasia, and how do they relate to the diminutive people of Flores?

Migration mystery

How did Flo get to Flores in the first place, and where did she come from? Based on geography alone, Homo erectus populations on nearby Java would seem like the most obvious source of original colonisers. But anatomically, Flo links up much more readily with diminutive hominid fossils found in Africa and Georgia. Could this mean that Flo came from an entirely separate migration of hominids? Nobody knows.

Whichever route her ancestors took, the last leg of their journey would have been treacherous. Flores has always been an island surrounded by deep water channels and dangerous currents. Swimming is out of the question. But the recent tsunami in Indonesia has highlighted one possibility. Were Flo's ancestors washed up on the beaches of Flores, clinging to driftwood?

Of course, a raft is an obvious mode of transport, but many palaeo-anthropologists doubt whether Homo erectus ever had the intelligence and cultural skills for complex tasks like raft-building. But that assumption has been called into question. Using CT scans, scientists have been able to construct a virtual model of Flo's brain. The results show that the brain case, though small, contained an amazingly complex organ. Advanced morphological features such as enlarged temporal and frontal lobes suggest that Flo was an individual with foresight, good memory and excellent problem-solving abilities. These observations also tally with circumstantial evidence found at the excavation site in Flores. Buried among the hominid fossils were sophisticated tools and the charred remains of animal bones. She may have been small, with a brain a third the size of our own, but Flo possibly had the intelligence to make fires, to fashion tools, and perhaps even to cook her own food.

Small but perfectly formed

Flo's discovery has turned up many unanswered questions, but the overwhelming enigma is her size. Doubts still linger in certain corners of the palaeo-anthropological community over whether Flo is truly representative of her kind, or merely a diseased individual with atypical characteristics. Flo's small head mimics a rare condition in modern humans known as microcephaly. But a recent and detailed examination of her skull suggests that the similarity is superficial. Further evidence against this idea comes from the discovery of at least five more diminutive individuals from the same spot where Flo was found. How likely is that they would all share the same rare pathology?

Animals that colonise islands often become giants or dwarves compared to their mainland relatives. The Galapagos has its tortoises, Mauritius had the Dodo, while the Seychelles has a frog no bigger than an ant. On Flores itself, there is that giant of the lizard world, the Komodo dragon, an extinct pygmy elephant, and an extinct species of giant rat. The forces underlying these evolutionary changes are still not properly understood, and the patterns often seem vague and unpredictable. But one general rule seems to be that large mammals get smaller, while anything smaller than a rabbit gets larger. Because islands have more limited resources, and contain fewer predators, a radical change in size may be the best way for a mammal to maximise its energy efficiency.

Whether this so-called 'island rule' can explain Flo's small stature is unclear. In mammals, selection for smaller bodies has only a marginal effect on brain size. But if Homo floresiensis descended from Javan populations of Homo erectus then Flo not only lost half her height, she also lost half her brain volume. Why would natural selection favour such a mammoth loss of grey matter? To answer that question we may have to wait for the next great fossil find.

Find out more

Channel 4 is not responsible for the content of third party sites


Bones of contention
www.guardian.co.uk/life/feature/story/0 ... 00,00.html
The discovery of a new species of human astounded the world, but is it what it seems? Read this fascinating article by John Vidal, who went to remotest Flores to find out.

Flores find
http://magma.nationalgeographic.com/ngm ... media.html
Scientists believe the small skeleton found inside a cave on the Indonesian island of Flores may represent a new human species, Homo floresiensis. Check out the video reconstructions of this tiny hominid.

Hobbit-like human ancestor found in Asia
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news ... ensis.html
Article from National Geographic on the recent discovery of the Homo floresiensis skeletons. The article has accompanying photographs.

Little lady of Flores forces rethink of human evolution
Article published in Nature magazine about the discovery of Flo and its implications.

Prominent hominid fossils
Offers a list of hominid fossils important for their scientific or historic interest. All are accompanied by photographs or drawings, plus information on where and when the discovery was made.

Q&A: Indonesian hominid find
BBC online looks at some of the questions that the recent discovery of Flo raises.


Adventures in the Bone Trade: The race to discover human ancestors in Ethiopia's Afar Depression by Jon E Kalb (Springer-Verlag, 2000)
Over the past 25 years, a stream of fossil and artefact discoveries in the Afar Depression of Ethiopia has produced the longest single record of human ancestors in the world. This book chronicles the exploration of this unique desert area, focusing on the 1970s when the valley was mapped and many fossils and archaeological sites were discovered.
www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/03879 ... ntmagaz-21
www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0387987 ... enantmc-20

The Human Story: Our evolution from prehistoric ancestors to today by Christopher Sloan (National Geographic Society, 2004)
Drawing on evidence from fossils and DNA testing, this authoritative overview of human evolution goes back 6 million years to a time when humans and chimpanzees had a common ancestor.
www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/07922 ... ntmagaz-21
www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0792263 ... enantmc-20
It was an interesting show - it was interesting tos ee lots of footage of the excavation and the bones and nice to see Robert Bednarik brushing off his Palaeolithic boat building skills (that raft journey look a pain!!) but it just skimmed the surface. It did it well but you imaigne this could have been made and shown last year and a lot has happened in between.

I suppose that means that there is plenty more room left open for more documentaries ;)

I did think it was odd they didn't mention Morwood's earlier work showing that Flores had been occupied half a million years ago but it might have muddied the story a tad but still.

Oh and that reconstruction was so good it was spooky!!!
Having watched the programme on Channel 4 last night about "Hobbits", I was very interested in the experiment where the researchers took a rudely built canoe accross the Java Straits just to prove that early hominids could have done it too.

If the Hobbits are a dwarf form of Homo erectus, is it possible that they migrated to Flores island following the herds of elephants that were also pictured swimming the straits? There could be some connection as to why both species reduced in height over the course of time and both were found in such a geographically isolated area.

Also, as an aside, did anybody else who watched the show think the CGI image of the Hobbit and the early human sitting side by side on a log watching the surf break was a bit over the top? Still, it was better than the preceding one where the sapiens attacked the little guy and, well... let's just say the animation wasn't clear enough to define exactly what it was he was doing, but I know what it looked like to me. :shock:
Jolly Jack said:
Having watched the programme on Channel 4 last night about "Hobbits", I was very interested in the experiment where the researchers took a rudely built canoe accross the Java Straits just to prove that early hominids could have done it too.

If the Hobbits are a dwarf form of Homo erectus, is it possible that they migrated to Flores island following the herds of elephants that were also pictured swimming the straits? There could be some connection as to why both species reduced in height over the course of time and both were found in such a geographically isolated area.

It is certainly possible they did - there is suggestions that some of the migrations out of Africa (into the Near East and esp. across the Red Sea into the southern parts of the Arabian peninsula) were due to people following migrating herds of animals.

I would say the endism (as discussed above) shows us that the arrival of animals on Flores wasn't so intentional. This process only really works well if there are pulses of migration (usually only a few colonising events) and then the gene pool can start going off on its evolutionary trajectory. If elephants were actually migrating and hominids were building rafts to follow them then there would be enough contact to stop them diverging as they did. We also don't have much evidence for elephants swimming across large distances (the footgae is, I believe, library footage of a group of elephants theat were stumbled on out in the Indian Ocean or if not may have been taken for the show closer inland) - as they say the straits have a vicious current and animals would be unlikely to this on purpose.

I'd suggest two scenarios:

1. That no one (animal or elephant) is making the direct journey. If there is raft building and oceanic migration then it is possible the were on islands further to the north (pos. doing a bit of island hopping) and the currents swept them south to Flores.

2. There have been studies on monitor lizards on remote islands and their "migrations" follow the storm tracks and the rats certainly spread clinging to storm debris. Its a more hit and miss approach but over the timescale of hundreds of thousands of years (Homo erectus was in Indonesia around 1.8 million years and we have evidence for stone tools in Flores at a smidge over half a million years) this process could easily establish a bredding population.

Jolly Jack said:
Also, as an aside, did anybody else who watched the show think the CGI image of the Hobbit and the early human sitting side by side on a log watching the surf break was a bit over the top? Still, it was better than the preceding one where the sapiens attacked the little guy and, well... let's just say the animation wasn't clear enough to define exactly what it was he was doing, but I know what it looked like to me. :shock:

That was awful!!!
I take it you moved my post then? Cheers, I thought there'd be a thread on this already but was in too much of a rush to find it. Lazy fool that I am. ;)
Flores tribe descended from human/hobbit interbreeding?

Could have posted this in Earth Mysteries, Cryptozoology or Human Condition forums i guess, but the Flores stuff has mostly been in the News forum...

http://www.time.com/time/asia/magazine/ ... 65,00.html

This tribe of very short people living in Flores claim to be descended from a short, hairy, cave-dwelling race who interbred with normal humans, and that the Liang Bua "hobbit" skeletons are their ancestors...

This raises several very exciting possibilities:

1) H. floresiensis actually interbred with modern humans, rather than being hunted to extinction (which would mean that both H. floresiensis and probably H. erectus would have to be classified as the same species as modern humans... it also parallels some of the Australian Aboriginal "Brown Jack" legends...)

2) The skull labelled H. floresiensis is actually microcephalic, as Jacob and his supporters claim, and the "hobbits" are actually pygmy modern humans (albeit the smallest yet discovered)...

3) Even if there wasn't interbreeding as such, it could be a legend based on peaceful (and perhaps mutually culturally influential) interaction between the hobbits/Gogo/Pendek and modern humans, and the tribe could know a lot more about the hobbits/Gogo/Pendek than the scientists do...

Could H. sapiens and H. floresiensis have interbred?
Re: Flores tribe descended from human/hobbit interbreeding?

Goldstein said:
Could H. sapiens and H. floresiensis have interbred?

It wouldn't be likely - the physical evidence suggested they are descended form ancient Homo erectus and have been separated from us a million + years. We'd need the DNA studies to know for sure.

Anyway more reports:

A Bone to Pick in Indonesia

Discovery of remains in a cave that may be of a previously unknown species of tiny human has set off a full-sized row among scientists.

By Richard C. Paddock
Times Staff Writer

June 15, 2005

KAMPUNG TERAS, Indonesia — The bones in the limestone cave had been buried more than 12,000 years when the archeologists found them. The villagers say they belonged to sinners who drowned in the biblical Great Flood.

"The people in the cave were condemned by God years ago," said Stanislaus Barus, 60, his lips stained red from chewing betel nut. "They had lots of sins, according to the Old Testament. It rained for 40 days and 40 nights, and the condemned people took refuge in the cave."

The Indonesian and Australian archeologists who began unearthing the remains in Liang Bua cave on the Indonesian island of Flores two years ago have come to a more scientific, if no less sensational, conclusion: They say the bones belong to a tiny, previously unknown species of human.

The little people stood 3 foot 3 and had a brain the size of a grapefruit, the archeologists say. Making sophisticated stone tools, they hunted pygmy elephants, giant rats and Komodo dragons. They used fire to cook and almost certainly had a spoken language. The archeologists named them Homo floresiensis, or Flores Man.

Based on the discovery of stone tools elsewhere on Flores, scientists believe the species' ancestors landed on the island east of Bali more than 800,000 years ago and survived there long after modern humans arrived in the region. Most likely they built rafts to reach Flores, which would make them the earliest known sailors. A volcanic eruption may have caused their extinction around 10,000 BC.

In the search for human origins, some experts call this one of the most important finds of the last century. The discovery challenges the conventional view of human evolution, particularly the belief that having a big brain is an essential part of being human. According to the discovery team, these little people carried out complex tasks with brains smaller than a chimpanzee's.

Not everyone has welcomed the discovery.

In Indonesia, the October announcement of Flores Man in the respected British journal Nature ignited controversy within the scientific community and sparked jealousy among experts who were not part of the excavation. The discovery was front-page news around the world.

Teuku Jacob, Indonesia's preeminent paleoanthropologist, accused the Australians of stealing the limelight from Indonesian archeologists by holding their own news conference, and he challenged the conclusion that the bones represented a separate species.

"They are all modern man," declared Jacob, a professor of physical anthropology at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta on the island of Java.

In his quest to disprove the findings, Jacob persuaded an Indonesian member of the team to lend him the priceless bones. For months he refused to give them back, then returned some of them broken, including a smashed pelvis. Members of the excavation team have called his behavior unethical.

Now controversy over the bones has derailed further excavation at Liang Bua. The quarrel has prompted the influential Indonesian Institute of Sciences to prohibit digging in the cave, which had been planned for this year and might have produced new evidence in the scientific debate.

"We should stop excavation there for a while, to avoid the dispute getting worse," said professor Umar Jenie, chairman of the institute, which has authority over foreign research in the country. "If we don't have a cooling-down period, I worry that relationships between Indonesian and Australian scientists will deteriorate."

The tranquil village of Kampung Teras in the mountains of western Flores seems an unlikely center of international controversy.

The village has no electricity, running water or sanitation system. The 400 inhabitants, all of them Christian and most of them rice farmers, live in small wooden shacks with dirt floors. They cook their meals over open fires and wash in the river that runs through the village. No one owns a car. When they leave the village, they travel in a converted truck, usually so crowded that passengers ride on the roof.

During the recent excavation, more than 30 villagers got jobs digging with small shovels and hauling dirt from the cave. They earned less than $3 a day.

Large vines droop near the cave's entrance, which has grown wider over the millenniums as the hillside above has eroded. Inside, broken stalactites hang from the ceiling, which in some places is more than 60 feet high.

Over the last 50 years, Indonesian and Dutch archeologists found the remains of modern Homo sapiens in the top layers of the cave floor. But it was not until excavations in 2003 and 2004 that the Indonesian-Australian team dug deeper and found the bones they identified as Flores Man.

The most significant find was the skull and skeleton of a female who lived about 18,000 years ago: It revealed the species' short stature and tiny brain. The team also found bones belonging to six other little people who lived between 95,000 and 12,000 years ago, a span of more than 80,000 years.

The bones of the pygmy humans were taken to Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, on Java. Not yet fossilized, they were too fragile for casting. Instead, researchers took them to a hospital, ran a CT scan, and from that made a model of the skull. The age of the bones was determined in Australia using rocks found with the specimens.

"On Flores, evolution has resulted in the most extreme morphological changes ever seen in hominids, including the smallest stature and brain size for any known hominid species," said professor Michael Morwood of Australia's University of New England, a co-leader of the excavation team.

Scientists say the pygmies and modern humans overlapped in the region for at least 40,000 years, but no evidence of contact between them has been found. The pygmy bones were uncovered beneath a layer of volcanic ash that is about 12,000 years old. All traces of Homo sapiens in the cave were found above the ash layer.

"There are still many problems to solve," said Thomas Sutikna, an Indonesian archeologist on the discovery team. "How did they survive in the same period with modern humans? Maybe they had contact with modern humans. We don't have information about that."

The phenomenon of large animal species "dwarfing" in isolated island habitats is well known to scientists, although it had not been seen in humans. In this process, scarce food supplies give the evolutionary edge to smaller creatures, resulting in the larger species' shrinkage over time. Stegodon, an elephant that also reached Flores more than 800,000 years ago, gradually shrank to the size of a water buffalo.

Even as larger species can dwarf in an island environment, the opposite can happen to smaller species. In the absence of predators on Flores, the rats evolved to become gigantic. Locals say the rats still exist and are sometimes caught and barbecued.

While evolving its short stature and other unique traits, Homo floresiensis retained primitive characteristics in its jaw and pelvis that set it apart from other species of human, Morwood says. Initial analysis of the skull suggests that the brain may have adapted to become more efficient as it shrank.

Excavations elsewhere on Flores have unearthed stone tools dating back more than 800,000 years, indicating that the pygmies' ancestors reached the island before that. Morwood says the extent of evolutionary differences suggests that the species lived in isolation much longer, perhaps even 2 million years. If true, that would rewrite the theory of early human migration around the globe.

Because of the deep ocean channels west of Flores, reaching the island even during the low sea levels of the ice ages would probably have required a water voyage, which some scholars have thought beyond the ability of such early humans.

The Flores discovery suggests that other species of humans might have evolved elsewhere in the Indonesian archipelago, much as Charles Darwin found that tortoises and birds evolved differently on the various islands of the Galapagos.

Indonesia has been rich in human archeological finds, including fossils known as Java Man, Solo Man and Mojokerto Child, all hominids on the island of Java that lived between 50,000 and 1.8 million years ago.

Some archeologists believe it won't be long before someone unearths new human species on neighboring islands — perhaps Timor Man, Lombok Man or Sulawesi Man.

The two October articles in Nature announcing the Flores discovery underwent a rigorous peer review process before publication. The main article was signed by two Australians, including Morwood, and five Indonesians, including Sutikna.

Soon after, Jacob assailed the team's conclusions, arguing that the Flores pygmies were modern humans and that the skull of the female was small because the woman had suffered from microcephaly, a condition in which the head is abnormally small.

Jacob, 75, whose extensive collection of human fossils includes the celebrated skulls of Solo Man and Mojokerto Child, argues that evolution cannot "go backward" and produce a human with a smaller brain. A human with such a tiny brain, he contends, could not have hunted cooperatively, used fire or had a spoken language.

"It is less than the brain of the chimpanzee, so it could not be making tools," said Jacob, a former rector of Gadjah Mada University who once served in parliament.

"You can't base a new species on one abnormal specimen. This is nothing more than a microcephalic pygmy human."

To counter the team's conclusion that Flores Man was a separate species, Jacob began combing villages on Flores for short people in the hope of proving that they were descendants of the cave dwellers.

So far he has found and photographed 76 adults averaging about 4 foot 7. None are as height-challenged as the pygmy skeleton.

One of Jacob's discoveries is Johannes Daak, who has become famous for being short. Standing 4 foot 1 and claiming to be 100 years old, Johannes is convinced that he is descended from the pygmies. (He sees no inconsistency with his other belief that the cave dwellers died in Noah's flood, leaving no offspring.)

Johannes makes a few dollars by charging visitors who want to take his photo. And who can blame him? He and his family live in a two-room shack whose only furniture is a wooden sleeping platform.

Rokus Awe Due, another co-author of the Nature article, argues that Jacob's search for short people is misguided. The pygmies' bone structure is so different from modern humans' that Jacob's current-day examples cannot be the pygmies' descendants, the Indonesian scientist says. Flores Man is not characterized merely by short stature, but by features such as a sloping forehead and recessed chin.

"It's ridiculous," he said. "Why do they measure the people's height? Height is not the point. Jacob should measure the brain volume of those people, because the volume is what matters."

After the dispute erupted, the Indonesian Institute of Sciences discovered that the Australian archeologists had never obtained a permit from the institute to dig in the cave.

That was required, said Jenie, the institute's chairman, even though the excavation was conducted in partnership with the respected Indonesian Research Center for Archeology.

Jacob says the lack of a permit is a sign of the Australians' lack of respect for Indonesia. "What they have done is actually illegal," he said.

Morwood said he believed that the center had obtained all the proper permits.

Using his clout in the scientific community, Jacob arranged in November for an Indonesian member of the excavation team to ship the bones of the Flores woman and five other individuals to him in Yogyakarta, 275 miles southeast of Jakarta, even though he did not have authorization from the excavation team as a whole.

For months, Jacob declined to return the bones, allowing researchers who had no connection to the discovery to examine them. Jacob, who has been accused of hoarding human fossils for his collection, invited a German researcher to take a sample from a rib and ship it to a German laboratory in the hope of extracting DNA.

Critics say that allowing an unaffiliated scientist to take material from the find and send it overseas is an appalling breach of scientific etiquette.

Jacob and his researchers also made a mold of the skull, leaving a residue of rubber and scratches on the bone. As a result of the casting, Morwood said, much of the finer anatomical detail at the base of the skull was lost.

In addition, a lower jawbone was broken and glued back together at a narrower angle. A tooth fell out, and pieces of bone were broken off. Jacob, who returned all but the leg bones in February, says the breakage occurred during the trip to Yogyakarta.

Rokus, the Nature article co-author, sees a more sinister intent. He charges that Jacob was trying to manipulate the evidence, in particular reshaping the jawbone to fit his view that it belonged to Homo sapiens.

Jacob doesn't deny reconstructing some of the bones.

"We tried to improve some of the things," he acknowledged. "We didn't damage any bones. Actually, we improved some."

Small brain did not stop Hobbit having big ideas
By Nic Fleming and Roger Highfield in Dublin
(Filed: 08/09/2005)

A fossil of a diminutive human nicknamed "the Hobbit" does indeed represent a previously unrecognised species of early Man, according to a new technique that suggests it was a cultured little fellow.

Sceptics had argued that the Hobbit, discovered in Indonesia and first announced last year, could have been an individual who suffered from microcephalya, a disorder that limits brain growth.

The fossils' discoverers had suggested that the Hobbit was either a pygmy form of a known species or a previously undiscovered species of early human.

Yesterday Nathan Jeffery of the University of Liverpool described a new way to study the imprint left by the brain on the inside of fossilised skulls.

His work adds fuel to a debate about how advanced the Hobbit's mental abilities might have been.

The cave on the Indonesian island of Flores, where scientists found the fossil, also contained remnants of stone tools, fire, and a pygmy elephant, suggesting but not proving that Homo floresiensis may have had surprisingly advanced cognitive abilities given its chimpanzee-sized brain.

The endocranial volume of the Hobbit is about 380cc to 417cc. "This is considerably smaller than expected for any Homo species, even one of such diminutive stature, and is only slightly bigger than that of living chimps (383cc).

"Unlike chimps, H. floresiensis was found alongside some very impressive looking stone tools. Most modern humans would struggle to fashion such elegant tools in a timely manner let alone some dwarf-like and presumably slow-witted hominid," he said, adding that either the stone tools belonged to some other larger-brained hominid or else our assumptions about brain size were "utterly wrong".

The latter seems to be the case according to his study of X-ray scans of fossils, living apes and modern humans. Dr Jeffery has revealed a simple yet effective measure of the endocranial cavity which gives a proportion of frontal and cerebellar parts of the brain and appears to reflect the rudimentary cultural advances between species.

"The proportion for H. floresiensis (168 per cent) falls within the range for Homo erectus (165 -171 per cent) and is approximately 20 percentage points greater than that for the chimps," he said. "As expected the mean proportion for modern humans is much higher than the rest at 205 per cent."

Because Homo erectus is the first hominid to demonstrate clearly what could be called culture, by the use of stone tools, living in camps and with a social organisation that was similar to modern hunter-gatherers, "these findings show that the cognitive and cultural capabilities of H. floresiensis are not entirely inconsistent with the stone tools discovered on Flores".

"Although the brain of Homo floresiensis is very small, it is very similar in its proportions to that of Homo erectus and hence not inconsistent with the stone tool assemblages also found on Flores."

Australian and Indonesian archaeologists began to unearth the Hobbit in 2003.
Tonight's Horizon is called The Mystery of the Human Hobbit
9:00pm - 9:50pm
Saw the prog - v. interesting.

Microcephalic or new species?

One thought occured - if the 'little people' were microcephalic (but modern human), and part of a 'leper colony' as was suggested, then the advanced tools (non homo erectus) found in association with the 'flores' remains, could they have not been left by those caring for the microcephalic 'hobbits' (and therefore probably 'retarded' due to their condition)? Just a thought...

Shame they are not allowing more digging at the original cave.

Fascinating stuff.
There is also the possibility that the hobbits were in communication with regular humans (pygmies or otherwise) and traded for the tools or perhaps obtained training to make them.
Yes, certainly - the local people have legends/folklore tales of the 'little people' which may have been as recent as only 200yrs ago - but I think that they also referred to fighting/killing them as they would steal their food crops.

Additionally, aren't there examples of 'synchronicity' in the development of tools/ideas in disparate locations? Could homo floresiensis be an archaic example of this in the 'modern' tools found in association with the bones?
Better than the NHS, then

bazizmaduno said:
Microcephalic or new species?

One thought occured - if the 'little people' were microcephalic (but modern human), and part of a 'leper colony' as was suggested, then the advanced tools (non homo erectus) found in association with the 'flores' remains, could they have not been left by those caring for the microcephalic 'hobbits' (and therefore probably 'retarded' due to their condition)? Just a thought...

Shame they are not allowing more digging at the original cave.

Fascinating stuff.

I didn't see the programme (lacking a TV), but I have seen some magazine/web articles about the latest microcephaly suggestion.

I have some difficulties with these . . .

From memory, the 'hobbit' bones comprise 7 (I believe) separate individuals from different dates spanning well over 10,000 years, all corresponding to the same, approx 1-meter tall, size. That's one very long-lived leper colony!

Although only 1 complete skull was found, an additional partial jawbone matched it in size and other (especially dental) peculiarities. So that's 2 dwarfs with the additional same microcephalic condition from perhaps several thousand years apart, then.

Re the question of interbreeding and species. The definition of species according to whether or not the populations concerned interbreed (and therefore are, or are not, the same species) is a bit hazy when it's only time, not geography etc, that separates them. We can't (so far as we know) successfully interbreed with chimps or bonobo (our closest living relatives) because they (not we), have merged 2 of their chromosomes since our lines parted, so that complete chromosomal pairing between gametes is no longer possible. Since however H. sapiens evolved (it is thought) directly from H. erectus with no such major chromosomal alterations, we can't be sure that we would not be interfertile with them, IF one or more were available for the purpose.

If indeed H. floriensis was/is an island-dwarfed H. erectus that latterly co-existed with H. sapiens, interbreeding does not seem to me to be ruled out of the question by they/we being notionally 'different species.'

The possibility that the local, unusually small modern-day islanders may have partial H. floriensis descent is I think worthy of investigation.

The show basically toyed with the controversy about whether they were pos. microcephalic for quite a while and then revealed all the other specimens that showed similar patterns across thousands of years and (rather rapidly) concluded it wasn't a viable hypoethsis and then had all the naysayes recanting what they said earlier. Slightly odd pacing but interesting nonetheless.

The things the tool guy said were interesting but he was comparing 2 million year old Oldowan choppers with 18 thosand year old tools - if there hadn't been any development it would have been odd. Equally part of the point of this is that we can't equate brain size with intelligence. I didn't really find hi arguement convincing as there are a a lot of sophisticated tools in the 2 million yeras between his comparison samples.

I thought it was interesting when they showed Ralph Holloway the endocranial cast as he is The Man when it comes to this thing and doesn't have an axe to grind on any particular theory so it was interesting to see him change his opinion and not completely reject micrcephaly just on the grounds of the cast.
And a news article rather hyping the controversial aspects that the show pretty much puts to bed:

New 'Hobbit' disease link claim

Scientists are to present new evidence that the tiny human species dubbed "The Hobbit" may not be what it seems.

The researchers say their findings strongly support an idea that the 1m- (3ft-) tall female skeleton from Indonesia is a diseased modern human.

Their claims have been aired in a BBC Horizon programme screened on Thursday.

The Hobbit's discoverers are adamant it is an entirely separate human species, which evolved a small size in isolation on its remote island home of Flores.

It showed that we really could demonstrate with a specimen that [microcephaly] could explain the Hobbit's small brain
Ann MacLarnon, Roehampton University

The bones were unearthed during a dig at Liang Bua, a limestone cave deep in the Flores jungle. The discovery caused a sensation when it was announced to the world in 2004.

Analysis of the 18,000-year-old remains showed the Hobbit had reached adulthood, despite her diminutive size.

Long arms, a sloping chin, and other primitive features suggested affinities to ancient human species such as Homo erectus .

And Homo floresiensis , as science properly calls the creature, seems to exhibit other oddities, such as lower premolar teeth with twin roots. In most modern humans, the lower premolars have a single root.

Ancient roots

Australian anthropologists Peter Brown, Mike Morwood, Bert Roberts and others involved in the find, proposed that the Hobbit was a descendent of erectus or some other ancient species that reached Flores just under a million years ago.

Cut off from the rest of the world on this island, the species evolved small stature, much like the pygmy elephants it is thought to have hunted.

Sophisticated stone tools found nearby suggest they were not lacking in intelligence, even though the Hobbit specimen's brain was no larger than a chimpanzee's.

But it was not long before some scientists began to ask serious questions about the discovery team's conclusions.

Indonesian anthropologist Teuku Jacob controversially took possession of the remains and declared them to be those of a modern human with the condition microcephaly.

This disorder is characterised by a small brain, but it can also be associated with dwarfism, as well as abnormalities of the face and jaw. For this reason, some scientists believe the condition could cause a modern human to look primitive in evolutionary terms.

Jacob was soon joined by a handful of researchers in the belief that the discovery team had happened upon nothing more than a member of our own species with a rare disease.

Professor Bob Martin, one of the team that is set to publish new evidence challenging the discovery team's original interpretation, says the Hobbit's brain is "worryingly" small and contradicts a fundamental law of biology.

"What this law says in simple terms is that if you halve body size, brain size is only reduced by 15%," he told the BBC's Horizon programme.

"So if you halve body size you don't halve brain size, the brain is reduced far less than that."

Biological laws

Working under the assumption that the Hobbit was basically a shrunken form of Homo erectus , Professor Martin used this law to find out how big the Hobbit's brain should have been.

Starting with a height of 1.75m and a brain size of 990 cubic centimetres for Homo erectus , Professor Martin used the standard scaling formula to calculate that, given a height of 1m, the Hobbit's brain size should have been about 750 cubic centimetres.

In fact, it was a mere 400 cubic centimetres.

"You can calculate what body height the Hobbit would need to get its brain down to this size, and the answer is... about the size of a meerkat," he said.

However, researchers who carried out the excavation at Liang Bua argue that island isolation can play strange evolutionary tricks.

"If they'd been isolated on this island for 800,000 years by themselves, genetically cut off from the rest of the world, where very few other animals could get to, we'd expect strange things," Mike Morwood of the University of New England, Australia, told Horizon.

But another piece of evidence challenging the discoverers' claims has come from one of the oldest anatomical collections in the world.

More remains

Ann MacLarnon of Roehampton University, UK, has discovered the skull of a microcephalic in the vaults of London's Royal College of Surgeons with a brain that matches that of the Hobbit for size.

"It showed that we really could demonstrate with a specimen that [microcephaly] could explain the Hobbit's small brain," she told Horizon.

But there's a problem with the sceptics' version of the story. The Hobbit team has found more human remains. These include a lower jaw with the same unusual features as the original find (including twin roots to the molars).

"Let's buy into [the sceptics'] argument just for a bit of fun," said Professor Bert Roberts of the University of Wollongong, Australia, a member of the discovery team.

"We've got a complete lower jaw that's identical to the first so there we have a situation where we've now got to have two really badly diseased individuals.

"We've got a diseased population like some sort of leper colony, living in Liang Bua 18,000 years ago. The probabilities have got to be vanishingly small."

The Hobbit team is now looking in other caves on Flores for more evidence of this ancient population.

The sceptics intend to publish their concerns in a scientific journal.

Horizon: The Mystery of the Human Hobbit was shown on Thursday, 22 September, 2005 on BBC Two at 2100 BST.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/s ... 268122.stm

Published: 2005/09/23 12:30:10 GMT


The specific Horizon page is:
www.bbc.co.uk/sn/tvradio/programmes/hor ... mary.shtml