Ewen Callaway reports on a talk at the European Society for Human Evolution meeting, presenting new human teeth from the ongoing Liang Bua archaeological work: “Human remains found in hobbit cave”. The story is that these remains may document some of the earliest modern human presence in the cave, postdating the last occurrence of H. floresiensis and extinct mammalian fauna. But I am always skeptical about the idea we can clearly diagnose the taxonomic status of unknown hominins from a couple of teeth.
María Martinón-Torres, a palaeoanthropologist at University College London who attended the talk, thinks that the lower molar looks like those of H. sapiens, whereas the premolar seems a bit more primitive. To prove conclusively that the teeth are human, she would like to see comparisons with a wide range of remains from H. sapiens and also from H. erectus (which might have survived in Indonesia until around 50,000 years ago). “I think they have quite a tough job. There are lot of factors to take into account,” she says.
It’s very encouraging that the cave still holds much more evidence to uncover, and I’m sure we’ll hear more as the work progresses.