NOVA - Season 36, Episode 5 - Rotten Tomatoes

Alien From Earth

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In 2003, archaeologists on the Indonesian island of Flores unearthed the remains of a strange, elf-like creature that, until that date, had been thought by many to be nothing more than a local legend. Could this being, which bears a striking resemblance to the hobbits in the novels by author J.R.R. Tolkien, come to define a pivotal lost chapter in the story of human evolution? Five years after the discovery of an adult female who was no larger than a three-year-old child, experts are only beginning to comprehend the implications of the archeological anomaly officially dubbed Homo floresiensis. The skull of the woman was discovered deep in the sediment of an enormous cave, and dated at 18,000 years old. Upon further investigation, researchers discovered the remains of more beings like her and learned that, despite their comparatively small brain size, Homo floresiensis used stone tools, charcoal, and hunted for food. But if this being is, in fact, a previously undiscovered branch of the human tree, why is it that there remains no evidence of comparable early hominids from Indonesia to Africa, where that tree is firmly rooted? After making a cast of the hominid's brain with the help of a CAT scan, paleoanthropologist Dean Falk of the Mallinckrodt Institute in St. Louis surmises that these remains were indeed that of a healthy adult. Meanwhile, anthropologist Matt Tocheri of the Smithsonian Institution and anthropologist Bill Jungers of State University of New York offer some fascinating thoughts on the bone structure of the Homo floresiensis, and archeologist David Lordkipanidze from the nation of Georgia compares the skull to that of a recently excavated early human dated to 1.7 million years ago with surprising results.

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