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Hobbit’s not pretty, but she is distinctive

Homo Floresiensis

Homo Floresiensis

THE unveiling of the face of Homo floresiensis (popularly known as the ‘Hobbit’) is a feature of the Australian Archaeological (AAA) Conference being hosted by the University of Wollongong (UOW) until Thursday.

More than 400 participants (featuring in about 250 presentations) will be involved in this major conference which is being held at the Novotel Northbeach. It was officially opened on Monday by UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Judy Raper.

The AAA conference is being hosted by UOW’s Centre for Archaeological Science. The centre was established in 2010 to develop, integrate and apply modern scientific techniques to answer fundamental questions about human evolution and the analysis of material remains of past human life and activities.

Those attending include 28 international delegates from eight countries. Seven keynote speakers (Professor Mark Collard, Professor Tim Flannery, Professor Peter Hiscock, Dr Zenobia Jacobs, Professor Julia Lee-Thorp, Professor Curtis Marean and Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith) will deliver plenary addresses. There will also be a strong Indigenous representation at this year’s conference which has the theme ‘Science and Archaeology’.

As a precursor to the conference Honorary Senior Research Fellow at UOW and specialist facial anthropologist, Dr Susan Hayes, conducted interactive 3D and 2D workshops in evidence-based facial approximation – which involves creating the likely facial appearance of a deceased person based on the person’s skull and soft tissues. Dr Hayes has been working on 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.

Her background is in forensic science and late last year Dr Hayes worked at the request of Sydney Homicide on the remains of a young woman found in Belangelo State Forest. This latest research project involved Dr Hayes applying her methods to a very different female individual which was one of the very significant remains of Homo floresiensis unearthed by Professor Mike Morwood and the Liang Bua archaeological team in Flores, Indonesia in 2003. Dr Hayes described the facial approximation as an extraordinary challenge working on an archaic hominin.

“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.

For more information on the Australian Archaeological Conference visit: http://conference.australianarchaeology.com.au/

About Mick Roberts

A newspaper journalist, writer and local historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of pubs, inns and associated industries in the Sydney and Illawarra regions of NSW for over 30 years. He is currently working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides authoring a number of history books, Mick has owned and operated several community newspapers. He was one time editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limted), Sydney based, City News, and is now with Torch Publications.

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