Book: A New Human

I just recently bought A New Human: The Startling Discovery and Strange Story of the “Hobbits” of Flores, Indonesia.

The narrative voice is that of Mike Morwood, the principal Australian investigator in the discovery of Homo floresiensis. The cover design indicates that Penny Van Oosterzee did the bulk of the writing. The story certainly emphasizes that research is an intensely human and collaborative effort, recruiting large teams of researchers with various areas of expertise. The book is fascinating, especially all the techniques used to accurately date the findings. I learned something about techniques for nailing down accurate dates, about island biogeography, and about the probable origins of H. floresiensis: a small-bodied transitional form between Australopithecus and Homo.

Some minor details aren’t clear, e.g. which specimen or person is which in a picture. And I would have liked a medium-scale map of Flores and its surrounding islands. We go from small scale, where Lombok and Komodo are nameless blobs, to large scale, showing only a fraction of the island. A map showing the tectonic plates and subduction zones in Indonesia would have been nice, too. And there’s no index!  However, the story is engrossing and there is a list for further reading.


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