Giant Leap For A Small Woman
I've been trying to catch up with this lady because she seems terribly important in the great scheme of things. I don't particularly like the names she's been called. "Flores Man" - um, no, she was a woman. How about "hobbit" then? It certainly draws attention to her diminutive size but is too obviously a lazy rip-off of Tolkien's bucolic heroes, while the lexeme "hob" (short) just makes things worse. I mean, who'd want to be likened to a hobbledehoy? And the scientific moniker - LB1 - is just so unromantic. At least her very distant ancestor (I know I'm not being literal here) in Ethiopia was granted the rather elegant name Lucy. So the search for a name is on.
But still the little lady has her place in history. Among other things, her existence shows that we - I mean the genus Homo - are morphologically more varied and flexible in our adaptive responses than previously thought. As for other dimensions of her significance the controversies are already in full spate. Did she cook and master the use of fire? How did she get to the island - by bamboo raft? And what about language and other cognitive skills? Last week, one major argument seems to have been settled (at least for the time being). It was reported in Science that our diminutive lady friend does indeed represent a new species:
The study of the creature's brainpan shows that it was neither a pygmy nor an individual with a malformed skull and brain, as some critics contend. This lends support to the discovery team's assertion that the metre-tall specimen belongs to a species distinct from Homo erectus.As a result, our lady of Flores has forced anthropologists and paleontologists to think again about questions of linear evolution or multiregional models of speciation of modern humans. This is one giant step for mankind and for a small woman from Flores.