December 12, 2012
Facial Approximation Used To Reconstruct The Face Of The Hobbit, Homo Floresiensis
April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
One of the major features of the Australian Archaeological Association's (AAA) Conference at the University of Wollongong this week was the unveiling of the face of Homo floresiensis — popularly known as the "Hobbit."
Hosted by UOW´s Centre for Archaeological Science, which was created in 2010 to develop, integrate and apply modern scientific methods to the questions of human evolution, the conference consists of over 400 participants and 250 presentations.
Dr. Susan Hayes, Honorary Senior Research Fellow at UOW and specialist facial anthropologist, conducted interactive 3D and 2D workshops in evidence-based facial approximation — involving the creation of the likely facial appearance of a deceased person based on the skull and soft tissues — as a precursor to the conference. Dr. Hayes has been instrumental in the facial approximation of the "Hobbit."
“In the media it's often called 'facial reconstruction', but because I'm evidence-based and work in archaeological science, we prefer the term 'facial approximation',” Dr Hayes said.
Dr. Hayes has a background in forensic science. Last year, she worked on the remains of a young woman found in Belangelo State Forest at the request of the Sydney Homicide team.
The facial approximation of H. floresiensis involved Dr. Hayes applying her methods to a very different female individual, unearthed in 2003 by Professor Mike Morwood and the Liang Bua archaeological team in Flores, Indonesia.
The facial approximation of an archaic hominin was an extraordinary challenge, according to Dr. Hayes.
“She's taken me a bit longer than I'd anticipated, has caused more than a few headaches along the way, but I'm pleased with both the methodological development and the final results. She's not what you'd call pretty, but she is definitely distinctive,” Dr Hayes said. "She doesn't have those hyper-feminine features such as big eyes; there isn't much of a forehead." Dr. Hayes asserts, though, that the image of the tiny hobbit species is about scientific accuracy, not aesthetics.
The image, released Monday, was created using high-resolution 3D imaging and CT scan data obtained from a female Hobbit skull that dates back about 17.000 years. The remains were of a 3-foot tall, 30-year-old female of the species. This data was compiled by a computer graphic program, which allowed Dr. Hayes to reconstruct the skull. Based on the skull's structural attributes, the face and features were added.
"Compared to other archaic hominins, there was a remarkable amount of information there," she told Bridie Smith, Science and Technology Reporter for The Age.
Dr. Hayes, who said that they were largely dominated by monkey features, analyzed existing portraits by other paleo-artists. Her findings, on the other hand, suggest modern anatomical features are more appropriate.
"As a Homo floresiensis she is closer to us than to a chimpanzee, which is our closest relative," Dr Hayes told Smith. "She is certainly more us than them."
At least 13 members of the species were discovered on the island of Flores between 2001 and 2004.