Daily Archives: 05/20/2006

Homo floresiensis – Maybe Not A Hobbit After All

Anthropology is such a contentious field. This whole brouhaha over Homo floresiensis is just typical of the sometimes rather bitter debate over human origins.

The story was reignited this week with the release of a paper in the journal Science. A team from the Field Museum in Chicago stated that the only explanation for the incredibly small brain size of H. floresiensis can only be explained by microcephaly, a genetic disorder that causes small brain sizes. However, the scientists suggest that this microcephalic individual found on Flores was from a tribe of pygmies, explaining the small stature of the skeleton. So maybe her and her tribe of H. erectus were pygmies, and she was a microcephalic. Guess it’s time for another round of rancorous debate.

By the way, microcephalics were frequently exhibited as circus freaks called pinheads by P.T. Barnum and other nineteenth and twentieth century circus impresarios; the most famous was Zip the Pinhead, who was quite famous across the U.S.A. from the 1860’s until 1926.

Guam From Above

Here’s a cool, if a little buggy, website that my coworker pointed me towards this week: Guam Geographic Internet Website. It’s an interactive GIS application for Guam. The aerial data is a rather stale, he says the photos is from the early 90’s, and I would have to agree. Oh, and it is kind of buggy. But check it out. My neighborhood is drastically different from today. I guess I’d need to know when the neighbor’s house was built to accurately date the photos. Or when the townhouses at Leo Palace were built, those appear roughly concurrent. Still it is an impressive effort, especially all the GIS data laid on top of the maps.