Wednesday, March 23, 2005

from Fresh scandal over old bones

Inside Liang Bua cave on the Indonesian island of Flores, the bones of the hobbit rested undisturbed for 18,000 years.

But no longer.

In what is being called a true case of scientific skullduggery, the remains of the newly discovered human species have suffered irreparable damage since entering the care of paleontologists.

The damage to the bones of this diminutive being — named Homo floresiensis and nicknamed hobbit by scientists — is so extensive that it will limit scholarly research on the species, say members of the Indonesian Center for Archaeology-based discovery team.

Considered the most important discovery in human origins in five decades, the remains are marred by broken jaws and smashed bones.

"The equivalent in the world of art would be somebody slashing the Mona Lisa and then trying to fix it with chewing gum," says paleontologist Tim White of the University of California-Berkeley, who was not on the discovery team.

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