Paige Madison

Grant Type

Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship

Institutional Affiliation

Independent Scholar

Grant number

Gr. 10565

Approve Date

September 29, 2023

Project Title

Madison, Paige (Independent Scholar) "Hobbits and Human Origins: How Tiny Fossils Raised Big Questions About Who We Are"

How have scientists come to understand humans’ evolutionary past? How do paleoanthropologists glean information from fossils—those fragmentary remains of the past that often carry highly debated meanings? In 2004, the announcement of a new species discovered in Indonesia threw these questions into the spotlight. For almost twenty years, the bones named Homo floresiensis and nicknamed the Hobbit, have been at the center of a controversy, declared the most important find of a lifetime by some and dismissed as a pathological mistake by others. This book is the story of the world’s smallest human relatives, whose existence showed us a new way of thinking about ourselves. It reveals how the H. floresiensis consensus ultimately came along with a radical shift in our understanding of our evolutionary story, which has transformed from a linear tree into a bush of staggering complexity and species diversity. Combining the captivating story of H. floresiensis with a broader view on the science and its history, this book speaks to a public audience about how our understanding of the meaning of “human” have changed over time. This work provides a new way of thinking about not only the past but also the process of science.