From June 10 Science by Elizabeth Culatta:
From the moment the announcement of a 1-meter-tall ancient human nicknamed “the hobbit” shocked the world in 2004, supporters and sceptics alike have longed for more fossils. After the first burst of discoveries, the team kept digging, at the original find site and at other sites in Southeast Asia. But they found no human fossils—until now. This week the team announces [in Nature] that they have found specimens of a tiny hominin at a site called Mata Menge on the Indonesian island of Flores, 74 kilometers from the hobbit’s home in Liang Bua Cave. The haul is meager—a fragment of jaw and isolated teeth—but the fossils’ diminutive size suggests they belong to the hobbit’s species, Homo floresiensis, or a precursor to it. They are securely dated to 700,000 years ago, hundreds of thousands of years earlier than the hobbit—and they are about 20% smaller. To many researchers, the finds suggest that a lineage of tiny humans evolved on Flores, emerging surprisingly soon after H. erectus, their likely ancestor, arrived about 1 million years ago.
There have been nay-sayers about the original fossils, now dated to about 60,000 years ago about whether they could have been pathologically afflicted modern humans, but now those doubts are put to rest. The phenomenon of evolved miniaturization in response to the limited resources of an island is well known and reinforced by the presence of fossils of dwarf elephants on Flores (as well as giant rats, freshwater crocodiles, and carnivorous Komodo dragons). The vision of a tropical island populated by three foot “hobbits” for approaching a million years captures the imagination.
What would it be like to suddenly be transported back 500-thousnd years to live among the hobbits?
This blog is on very firm footing in considering that the central arena of human evolution has been in the mind, not the body. Forming the defining mental core of all our many hominin forebear species is their basic foundation (or “bauplan”) of the unique structure of their collective mind.
This blog has revealed the quality of our ancestor’s consciousness, that lives on buried as the submerged continent of what Carl Jung called our “collective unconscious,” in modern humans. But the word “unconscious” is misleading in this context. Just because we are not aware of this vast majority of our six-million year mental legacy of hominin evolution, that doesn’t mean we do not experience the consciousness of it. Neuro-physiologist Antonio Damasio correctly defines consciousness as “the feeling of what happens” in a book bearing that title (1999). Animals are obviously conscious of their perceptions and their emotional responses to them: they clearly feel what happens to them as do we.
The reason that we are unaware of our “old-mind” is fundamentally different from the classical Freudian repression into “unconsciousness” of the threatening urges of our primate id. In modern humans, our new, ego-oriented mind is not aware of this old, long evolved mind by virtue of the fact that it is fundamentally a collective consciousness in which we are all immersed like fish, unaware of the common mental water in which we swim. The old-mind is a purely social consciousness with collective instincts for justice (right & wrong), which, from the very beginning, have always been the very essence and emblem of our noble tribe. Although we are not aware of it, we are intimately engaged within this ubiquitous experience (consciousness) that, minute by minute, guides and structures all our behavior, including our thinking.
So, if you were all of a sudden transported back to the island of Flores 500,000 years ago, you would be immersed within the core (soul) of who you now feel your deepest self to be; You would be sublimely nestled within the same oceanic being within which our tribe has dwelt with one another as a single ageless, spiritual organism up through the mists of time, and what is more, you would be living in this tropical Eden.