Type:  Retouched Flake

Location: Liang Bua Cave, Flores, Indonesia



MoST ID: 3435

Pedestal Link: https://une.pedestal3d.com/r/huDeW6epxX

Model Author:  Emma Watt

This chert retouched is flake from Liang Bua cave, Flores, Indonesia.  The flake was retouched on to margins to create a narrow perforator-like projection, although the function of the tool is unknown.  The retouched flake was found in deposits associated with Homo floresiensis (the ‘hobbit’), ca. 50,000-190,000 BP.

The flake for this tool was unifacially retouched on a lateral margin and distal end to create the perforator-like projection.  The retouching on the lateral margin was preceded by a bend-snap.  Part of the calcium carbonate coating on the artefact has detached from the surface on this margin, uncovering pristine retouching scars.  The retouching on both margins is very steep and the last series of flake removals resulting in edge crushing and step terminations.  This artefact is illustrated in the paper that announced the discovery of H. floresiensis, Figure 5d; in the technical analysis of the Liang Bua stone artefact assemblage, Figure 21D; and in the book chapter evaluating the cognitive abilities of H. floresiensis, Figure 11B.  The artefact was recovered from Sector IV, Spit 55.

Artefact on loan to Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology, University of New England.

Homo floresiensis was discovered in 2003 by a joint Australian/Indonesian research team—led by Mike Morwood, then at the University of New England, and R. P. Soejono, National Research Centre for Archaeology, Indonesia—in Liang Bua cave near Ruteng on the island of Flores.  The skeleton was determined to be a new species within the genus Homo.  This was a controversial assessment at the time but is now accepted by the scientific community.  The hominin was unusual because it stood just over one meter tall with the brain size of a chimpanzee, yet various traits of the skeleton place it within the genus Homo.  Subsequent research discovered teeth and bone fragments dating to ca. 700,000 BP at the site of Mata Menge, in the So’a Basin east of Liang Bua, and stone tools dating to 1 million years at the nearby site of Wolo Sege; these finds show that H. floresiensis and its ancestors were long-term residents on the island.  The hominin species likely arrived on Flores from the island of Sulawesi to the north.  There are two competing hypotheses for the hominin’s origin.  One view is that it descended from Homo habilis or an Australopithecine that found its way onto Flores.  However, those species lived in Africa, and there is no evidence for them between Africa and Flores.  For this reason, it is not considered the most parsimonious explanation.  Another view is that H. floresiensis descended from Homo erectus, which is known to have lived on the nearby island of Java during this timeframe.  In this hypothesis, H. erectus arrived on Flores and its body size shrank through time, as often happens with large-bodied animals that are isolated on small islands.  The contrary view to that hypothesis is that shrinking alone cannot account for the peculiar mixture of primitive and derived traits seen in the H. floresiensis skeleton.

An important aspect of the behaviour of H. floresiensis is that the species relied on stone tools throughout its evolutionary history on Flores, as attested by the tool assemblages recovered by archaeologists from Liang Bua and various early sites in the So’a Basin.  Stone tool-making was retained despite the possibility that profound changes occurred to the hominin’s brain size and neural organisation as evolution selected for a much smaller body size.  If so, this attests to the crucially important role stone tools played in the ongoing survival of these unusual hominins.  H. floresiensis was skilled at removing flakes from a core, but the overall approach to stone-flaking was relatively simple.  It appears that the hominins were mostly interested in using hard-hammer percussion to make sharp-edged flakes to use in various tasks, although the presence of retouched cobbles and flakes with pick-like projections may indicate a special use for certain tools.