Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Breaking news Saga ends with return of the hobbits (Free reg required)

The finders of the "hobbit" bones are once again their keepers.

An elderly Indonesian scientist who took possession of the fragile remains of the species of tiny humans three months ago and refused to hand them back to the Australian and Indonesian scientists who discovered them has capitulated.

Teuku Jacob, of Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, returned the bones of Homo floresiensis to the Indonesian Centre for Archaeology late on Wednesday.

Okay, not really "breaking" since the news article is dated 25 Feb. Why didn't we hear of this before? We admit it: We never thought they'd be returned. Call us cynical.

More here.

Professor Teuku Jacob reluctantly leaves the fossils with the original researchers:

Ancient Texts as "Fossils": How They Survive

Through the ages, ancient texts have survived wars, fires, theft, and neglect.

But so far scholars have only been able to draw upon anecdotal evidence to estimate how many handwritten texts created before the advent of the printing press in the 15th century have survived.

A new study, however, uses population biology to calculate the likelihood that an ancient text has survived from the eighth or ninth century to the present.

"The basis of the model is that manuscripts are like organisms," said John L. Cisne, a paleontologist and evolutionary biologist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. "A manuscript is going to behave just like an individual in a population. It can divide and reproduce or it can die."

This seems familiar to the ideas used by Darwinian archaeologists to describe the propagation of artifact types over time -- treating them like traits under selection (or not).