Archaeologist Mark Moore of the University of New England in Armidale, Australia, and his colleagues studied 11,667 stone tools recovered from Liang Bua Cave on Flores. Excavators have unearthed hobbit bones in cave layers dated to between 17,000 and 95,000 years ago. These older layers lie beneath a layer of volcanic tuff dated to 12,000 years ago. Above that layer, at 11,000 years and younger, researchers have found Holocene burials of Homo sapiens along with more tools.
Moore’s team analyzed the shapes of flakes, the position of scars left when flakes were struck off a stone, and other details to reconstruct the sequence of blows struck to make the tools. In a paper now in press at the Journal of Human Evolution, they report that hominids knapped stone in the same, simple way throughout the roughly 100,000 years represented in the cave layers. They first struck flakes off cores outside the cave. Then they brought large flakes into the cave and made smaller flakes, striking stones directly with a hammerstone or using an anvil.
Moore concludes that the hobbit, H. floresiensis, made the older tools, and then H. sapiens arrived and made similar tools. He even suggests that there was contact between the species, with modern humans copying H. floresiensis toolmakers before they went extinct: “I can see how different hominins might converge on the techniques themselves, but I find it more difficult to understand how those permutations [combinations of techniques] could be so similar without more direct observation or interaction.”
The research is being published here.
In other news, MSNBC has a story on bonobo vocalizations:
The scientists then recorded the bonobos’ vocalizations as they interacted with each type of food. Specialized software identified the precise structure of the calls.
The researchers concluded that bonobos produce five distinct types of calls in response to food: barks, peeps, peep-yelps, yelps and grunts. These are documented in a paper accepted for publication in the journal Animal Behavior.
When presented with their favorite foods, the bonobos almost always barked. They grunted when encountering their least favorites. The other calls seemed to signify ratings in between, with peep-yelps falling in the middle range for nibbles the individual thought were so-so.
Update 1: Oops, forgot to link to the bonobo article, which can be found here.