Aussie Anthropologist Tap Forensic Techniques to Come Up with 2D Image of Flores Hobbit Face

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By Vittorio Hernandez | December 11, 2012 10:27 AM EST

With the December showing of the Peter Jackson-movie The Hobbits: An Unexpected Journey, interest in hobbits is on the rise again.

The movie, which premiered in New Zealand on Nov 28, will have regular theatre runs beginning Wednesday, Dec 12, in nine nations, mostly in Europe.

On the same week that the movie starts to show in different global cities, an Australian anthropologist made public her use of forensic facial reconstruction methods to come up with a 2D image of the Flores hobbit.

Known as Homo floresiensis, the hobbit was discovered in Flores, Indonesia in 2003 by Professor Mike Morwood and the archeological team of Liang Bua.

Some groups insisted its members belong to a new species, while others thought it was a diseased specimen of an existing human species.

Dr Susan Hayes, an honorary senior research fellow at the University of Wollongong and a specialist facial anthropologist, used techniques that had helped police solve crimes. She moulded muscles and fat around a model of the hobbit skull which resulted in a face with high cheekbones, long ears and broad nose.

"She's not what you'd call pretty, but she is definitely distinctive," Ms Hayes said in a statement.

Darren Curnoe, a human revolution specialist at the University of New South Wales, said the new approach is a deviation from the artistic interpretations of the hobbit, who often appear to be beautiful by human standards.

To come up with the 2D image, Ms Hayes used high-resolution3D imaging and CT scans from a female hobbit skull that goes 17,000 years back. She then loaded the information into a computer graphic program.

"As a Homo florensis she is closer to us than to a chimpanzee, which is our closest relative. She is certainly more us then them," Ms Hayes added. The species were called hobbits because of their small size at less than one metre tall.

At least 13 members of the species were unearthed as of 2004.

Ms Hayes made public the result of the 2D image at the ongoing Australian Archaeological Conference at Wollongong, New South Wales, which runs from Dec 9 to 13.

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