After a contentious sojourn in the lab of a senior Indonesian paleoanthropologist, most of the ancient hominid bones from the Indonesian island of Flores, published to acclaim in
The controversy erupted after Teuku Jacob, professor emeritus of paleoanthropology at Gajah Mada University in Java, took the bones to his own lab. Jacob, who was not involved in the find, has said that this was standard practice and that scientists around the world have done research in the paleontology collections at Gajah Mada, which are particularly rich in
"We've put a limit of March 3" for the return of the leg bones, Douglas Hobbs, a member of the joint Indonesian–Australian team that found and analyzed the bones, told
The 2004 discoveries, which came from the same strata as LB1, have not yet been analyzed completely or published. Hobbs said that the lower jaw contains a complete set of teeth, and the arm bones are much longer than those of
The return of the bones on Wednesday (February 23) was managed with cordiality and dignity, Hobbs says. But the handover seems unlikely to halt international rancor over scientific and ethical issues surrounding the Flores find.
"There are asymmetries of the skull and deformities of long bones that were not described as such by authors of the original papers," Maciej Henneberg, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Adelaide in Australia, who has studied the bones in Jacob's lab and classifies them as microcephalic
"Ask him for his peer-reviewed publication, rather than his personal scratchings on the nearest wall," responded Peter Brown, of the University of New England in Australia, the bone specialist on the discovery team. Brown told
Jean-Jacques Hublin, of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, said he received nasty E-mails and was called unethical because he carried a 1-gram chip of LB1's rib from Jacob's lab home for analysis by his colleague Svante Pääbo. Hublin said the Jakarta Centre for Archaeology granted formal authorization to perform the analysis and points out that ancient DNA is now routinely analyzed in at least two labs before publication anyway.
Jacob, he said, has been treated unfairly. "The way it's presented in most of the media is that a group of scientists has made a fantastic discovery, and this discovery has been 'stolen' by an old Indonesian scientist," Hublin told
Editor's Note: Due to an editing error, the original version of this article mistakenly implied that Svante Pääbo had been the sender of contentious E-mails to colleague Jean-Jacques Hublin. The text has been corrected, and