KW: Do you have any prediction about what the males of H. floresiensis will look like?
PB: I wish they'd find one, because that would make it more secure that [LB1] was a female. I'm reasonably happy with it as a female, but it'd be nice. I suspect they had fairly large canine teeth. I assume the males were larger-bodied and more heavily muscled. And you'd expect them to have a more substantial browridge and a larger, more projecting facial skeleton. In terms of stature, [the male would be] maybe 8 to 10 percent taller than the female.
KW: The LB1 find greatly extends the known range of variation in the genus Homo. Do you think this could force some researchers to rethink what's going on further back in the family tree with regard to such African genera as Kenyanthropus and Paranthropus? In light of this discovery, might those genera be better subsumed under Australopithecus?
PB: I think that's probably the case. One of the interesting things about my subject is it's only as good as the next discovery, and the outstanding feature of the broad subject during the last decade is more and more fossils and greater and greater variation. So far, the material we have from Liang Bua is fairly consistent, not showing much variation, [which is] what you would expect from a local population. But I think given the differences between Liang Bua and things like Dmanisi [H. erectus from the Republic of Georgia] and the Javan [H. erectus], people are going to have to think a lot more about what produces variation. These Asian sites--and we do expect to find more--will start to put the African things in a better context, I suspect.
KW: Paleoanthropologists tend to disagree over how bushy or neat the human family tree is. How do you see it?
PB: My view on family trees changes daily, like everyone's does. When I first was educated I went for a fairly simple family tree, but then there weren't so many fossils around at the time. But I'm more willing now to accept a more complex family tree. That was important as far as Liang Bua goes because I had no problem at all putting it in a new species and making the tree more bushy, if you like. You can take dwarf examples and stick them into new genera or just create new species, and zoologists go both ways. But it just seemed on balance more sensible to stay within the genus Homo.
KW: I want to talk a little bit now about what the Liang Bua people were doing. You have evidence that they were making points, blades, and microblades for hafting. How does this tool kit compare with that of Homo erectus?
PB: It's strikingly different from everything ever found with H. erectus. Apart from this short, small-brained thing surviving until 14,000 or 18,000 years ago, its association with these stone tools is the other most remarkable thing about the site. It's something the critics will take a very close look at because there are three possibilities. Either Homo sapiens, of which there is no [fossil] evidence, was making these stone tools; or this small [hominid] learned to make the stone tools from H. sapiens in some way; or it was actually making the tools itself. I think it was making the stone tools. We have the same tools going from 94,000 years ago until 18,000 or 14,000 years ago--no change in technology, no change in materials, consistent from the bottom to where the skeleton was found. So on account of the evidence, the association seems fairly clear. Maybe something else will turn up at Liang Bua in the end, but at present there is nothing. The only [hominid] we're finding in association with stone tools is this small thing.
Now, the stone tools are consistent with those made by Homo sapiens on various parts of the planet, but they're very different from what Homo erectus makes anywhere. Homo erectus just doesn't make tools like these. Of course in Asia, particularly East Asia and Southeast Asia, there's little association between Homo erectus and stone tools anyway. The tools are also different from those of Zhoukoudian H. erectus [in China], at least for most of the deposit. So the stone tools are surprising, they certainly aren't what you would have predicted. But the association between the tools and the skeletal material seems fairly clear.