Two Million Year Old Artifacts on Sulawesi: The Return of Hominid Catastrophism

That is what this article in the Guardian claims!

In addition, Mike Morwood says he has now uncovered stone tools on nearby Sulawesi. These could be almost two million years old, he believes, which suggests the whole region was populated by very ancient humans for a startlingly long part of human prehistory. “This is going to put the cat among the pigeons,” Morwood says.

Interesting if true. Artifacts on Flores go back 1.1 MYA:

In research that provides further support for this idea, scientists have recently dated some stone tools on Flores as being around 1.1 million years old, far older than had been previously supposed.

The article is mainly about the implications of these early dates for out of Africa scenarios. Towards the end of the article theories about the demise of Homo floresiensis are considered:

As to the fate of H. floresiensis, that is unclear. The species disappears abruptly from the archaeological record 17,000 years ago. But why? They had apparently survived quite happily on the island for more than a million years. So what did for them in the end?

There are two competing answers. The first suggests that the species, after all the good fortune that had helped it endure the vicissitudes of life in the Malay Archipelago, ran out of luck. “There is a thick layer of ash in the Liang Bua cave above the most recent hobbit remains,” says Stringer. “We now know this was caused by a major volcanic eruption which occurred about 17,000 years ago. So it may be that they were just unlucky with the local geology.” According to this vision, the little folk of Flores were wiped out by choking plumes of volcanic ash or died of starvation on an island denuded of vegetation.

It would have been a pretty terrible way to go. Yet neither Stringer nor Morwood is convinced that was what happened, despite the tight link between dates of eruptions on the island and the disappearance of the species from the fossil record. Instead, they suspect a very different agent: the bloody hand of modern humans. “Look at our track record,” says Morwood. When Homo sapiens entered Europe 40,000 years ago, on its route out of Africa, they would have encountered the continent’s original inhabitants, the Neanderthals. Within a few millenniums, the Neanderthals had been rendered extinct.

The problem is, H. floresiensis, as near as we can tell at this point, was endemic to Flores and endemic species – especially those on islands – are prone to extinction. I don’t think sensationalistic ideas like “…the bloody hand of modern humans” are required, although I’m not surprised that Neanderthals get invoked at this point.

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4 Responses

  1. Got a 404 result.

  2. Follow Up

    You put a space between “his” and “tory” in the URL.

    As for the hobbits I wonder, were they Homo floresiensis or Australopithecus floresiensis? Did the genus Homo start with habilis or with ergaster? In other words, are we dealing with Australopithecus habilis and A. georgicus?

  3. [...] more here: Two Million Year Old Artifacts on Sulawesi: The Return of Hominid … February 23rd, 2010 | Tags: almost-two, indonesia, million-years, morwood, sulawesi, [...]

  4. There are a few folks (Wood, Wolpoff, Conroy) that think H. habilis should be moved to Australopithecus, the idea hasn’t gained much traction though.

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