Blog

A new home for Homo floriensis

By: David Teer, Category: At The Museum, Date: 30 May 2014

A very famous (replica) skeleton of an extinct species of early humans is now on display. Here's the story of its construction.

In the early part of 2014, the Australian museum entered into a small collaboration project to articulate and mount two life-size 3D-printed copies of the Homo florensiensis, whose original bones were discovered in the Liang Bua cave in Flores, Indonesia, in 2003.

It is said the original bones could be as old as 18 000 years, but this dating is now under review and they could possibly be even older. The bones have been described as probably belonging to a 30-year-old female who stood one metre tall and weighed about 25 kilograms.

When the two boxes containing the 3D copies arrived I laid out in the workshop all of the 60 bones and bone fragments that each box contained. Thankfully all the bones were tagged which made my job a lot easier. I was able to reconstruct the copy of the Homo floresiensis with the help of Dr Kira Westaway from Macquarie University, one of the Museum's Senior Conservators Sheldon Teare, the internet, and an articulated human skeleton we have here in our prep studio.

For the copy we now have on display here at the Museum, I constructed a steel armature to which the bones could be pinned, which allows the final complete skeleton copy to stand freely. All the bones, once I identified their sequence, were drilled, glued and pinned together to achieve the final articulation.

The skeleton contains no rib and vertebra (except for the atlas bones). Most of the bones of the feet are there and a partial left hand too, with the rest of skeleton intact and distinctively recognizable.

This articulation was an enjoyable project to work on and I know from talking with my collogues and managers that the museum is excited to be able to display our own copy of the Homo floresiensis thanks to the generosity of and the co-operation with Professor Paul Beggs and Dr Kira Westaway of Macquarie University.

Words by Exhibition Project Officer David Teer.

Video and images by Photographer Stuart Humphrey