Hobbit Critic Accused of Financial Fraud

Posted by: Loren Coleman on August 6th, 2008


Hobbit critic Professor Teuku Jacob (above) passed away last October 17, 2007, and the critic of the new hominid species who took Jacob’s place as most outspoken is now in hot water..

Saying he sees the irony in his accusations of monetary gain for fame, one of the harshest skeptics of the claims that Homo floresiensis, the Hobbit, is a new species, biological anthropologist Maciej Henneberg has been accused of financial fraud.

The Australian in their August 7, 2008 edition, has science writer Leigh Dayton laying out the facts of the case.

The University of Adelaide researcher who accused the scientists behind the hobbit discovery of misrepresenting their find for scientific fame and monetary gain is under investigation for financial fraud.


While the university declined to name him, the head of anatomical sciences, biological anthropologist Maciej Henneberg (pictured), confirmed he had been indefinitely suspended, along with another staff member. He said it was inappropriate for the university to detail the allegations and state of the inquiry. But Professor Henneberg acknowledged that the matter concerns the misappropriation of $400,000.

A spokesman for the university confirmed that two members of staff had been indefinitely suspended, pending the outcome of an investigation involving “allegations of misconduct”.

Professor Henneberg meted out harsh criticism to members of the hobbit discovery team in The Australian on April 16 and in a recent book, The Hobbit Trap: Money, Fame, Science and the Discovery of a “New Species”.

“Yes, I see the sense of irony in this,” Henneberg agreed.

The book, co-authored with former journalist John Schofield, accuses the team — including the University of Wollongong’s Mike Morwood and Peter Brown of the University of New England — of presenting “misleading” evidence to support their claim that the hobbit, given the scientific name of Homo floresiensis, was a new-found human species that lived on the Indonesian island of Flores until about 10,000 years ago.

According to Professor Henneberg, the team pushed their “new species” claim for professional and financial gain. He contended that his view — the the hobbit is a deformed modern human who had dental work — had been unfairly criticised by scientists with a vested interest.

“Unfortunately, what matters most these days is money, even in scientific discussion,” Professor Henneberg wrote in the book. “Nobody wants to kill the golden goose. What’s at stake, though, is the Truth!”

Professor Brown said Professor Henneberg’s claims were “incorrect and totally unsubstantiated by fact”.

“We published our work because we think it’s important and not with an eye to monetary gain,” he said. “These kinds of comments are in fact offensive.”

In April, 2008, Professor Brown described Professor Henneberg’s claims that a molar in the Homo floresiensis mandible as “complete lunacy.”

“There is no factual support,” Prof Brown said.

“The molar tooth has no evidence of dental work of any sort and this can be demonstrated by examination of the tooth … with photographs, X-rays, CT scans.”

Prof Brown accused his rival of being an attention seeker, and the two academics have publicly locked horns a number of times since the 2003 discovery.


Dental Work?: The lower left first molar of the hobbit is claimed to have a filling–an observation that other hobbit researchers say is refuted by this photograph.
Peter Brown, University of New England.


Regular Roots: Hobbit defenders say this CT scan showing the lower left first molar reveals no signs of the alleged root canal.
Peter Brown, University of New England.

For more on fiscal details on Henneberg new troubles, read here.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

9 Responses to “Hobbit Critic Accused of Financial Fraud”

  1. sschaper responds:

    Ipso hoc, post propter hoc? This is an old and common logical fallacy. The financial matters have no impact on the larger question of the identification of H. floresiensis and the other ultra-pygmy skeletons found on other islands in the region. And that question is so tangled with ideology that it is not at all clear.

  2. mystery_man responds:

    Mr. Pot, I’d like you to meet Mr. Kettle.

  3. HOOSIERHUNTER responds:

    I guess its just me, but I don’t get all the fuss about these fossils. If they are human, then small humans aren’t exactly unknown. From what I’ve found on the internet, Pygmy Africans only average about 4′ 3″. So a smaller group of humans shouldn’t be all that big of a deal. But apparently there is a lot of discussion as to whether or not they were even human at all. That, it seems to me, should send up a red flag about the whole thing.
    I’ve often wondered where exactly we draw the line in declaring something a different species anyway. Even between animals it seems a slightly different skeletal structure and slightly different coloring is enough to decare it a new species. But that is not true across the board for all species. To the layman this is all very confusing and seems aribtrary. So, I’m not really expressing an opinion here but I am wondering about these things.

  4. youcantryreachingme responds:

    When I co-interviewed Mike Morwood earlier this year for the science radio show Diffusion (which is podcast and recorded at Sydney’s 2SER) he was most helpful in answering any number of questions we put to him.

    The interview was followed by a 1 hour lecture during which he further addressed many of the criticisms levelled at the prospect of H. floresienses being a new species. There was certainly no doubt left in my mind that his team’s results are genuine and as described. No small number of attendees also remarked publicly to Mike that they felt the same.

    The presentation itself was excellent, as were the numerous slides, photos, illustrations, diagrams and explanations and I certainly recommend going along to hear Mike speak if the opportunity presents itself.

  5. youcantryreachingme responds:

    Hoosierhunter – H. floresiensis is not just a pygmy-pygmy (as it were). Certain anatomical characteristics are typically always found to be in the same proportion within any given species, no matter how large or small the individuals.

    What I mean is that a 6’6″ person of Anglo-Saxon background will have the same relative proportions between, say, their femur and the length of their spine, as will a 5’5″ person of Asian background, or even a 4’4″ person who is a pygmy.

    H. floresienses has a significantly different proportion in this measurement.

    In many respecs H. floresienses has anatomical features which match “Lucy”, from Africa. But in other respects it has anatomical features matching Homo erectus.

    Prior to the discovery of H. floresienses there would have been a number of viewpoints on the relationships between Lucy, H. erectus and H. sapiens (modern humankind). With the discovery of H. floresiensis all these relationships are under review.

    Apart from the anatomical comparisons, the dates of the fossils need also be taken into account when considering all these relationships. All I understand is that floresiensis has basically thrown a spanner into the works – so any wonder that all manner of professionals in the field might find it difficult to accept.

    Further, material found in association with H. floresienses indicates they were very intelligent, especially considering their tiny brain size. Prior to their discovery, many wouldn’t have believed that a creature with the brain capacity of H. floresienses could have had sophisticated language, fashioned tools and co-operatively hunted large prey; yet the species exhibits all these characteristics.

    This was particularly interesting to me and when I asked Mike what’s going on, he gave an answer which I didn’t find surprising. H. floresiensis basically makes us re-think the relationship between intelligence and brain capacity. He pointed out that certain parts of the brain were even far more highly developed than in modern humankind. Others have noted that pound for pound, H. floresiensis was the most intelligent species of human to have ever existed.

    I hope this helps clarify that H. floresiensis is indeed a unique species – and one that opens up a whole lot more new questions than perhaps it answers.


  6. Lightning Orb responds:

    The hobbits were more intelligent than us? Wow, it’s too bad they’re extinct – maybe we could’ve hired them to critique themselves

  7. cryptidsrus responds:


    What you are saying is true if one looks at it from a literal, absolutist way—but you will admit these allegations do color over whatever credibility the man may have. For better or worse. He himself admitted it is “ironic” that this is happenning to him. And given the vehemence of his attacks against Brown and the others and Brown’s counterclaim that Henneberg was the real attention-seeker in all of this brouhaha one cannot help but take the leap and see this little fiasco with $400,000 as indicative of a larger pattern with the man’s intergrity.

    In many large corporations, there is a mind-set that if one cannot handle their business at home or in their personal life, how can they handle the accounts of customers? Or even customers themselves?

    If I’m a respected geneticist with grants and tenures who is discovered to be “friendly” with Eugenics supporters and even to have attended their meetings—even though my work has really nothing to do with eugenics—won’t that at least “rub off” on me in some way? Won’t my bosses at least “investigate” me? Won’t my “credibility” and “reputation” and even professional standing be in question? (or jeopardy)???

    Most of Wagner’s music has nothing to do with his real-life Anti-Semitism, Ultra-Nationalism, Wife-Stealing, possible child molestation, and generally reprehensible behavior towards most of the human race. And I admit I like his music and listen to it occassionally. Yet even I admit my feelings for the man cannot help but be colored over by his personal acts. Genius, yes. Supreme Artist, yes. Still, not a guy you’d want anywhere near you. The dirt will never completely go away, like it or not. For better or worse. See what I mean? So Ipso hoc,
    post propter hoc all you want to, Sschaper, but in an “ideal” world, your assertion would have meaning. In the real world, it does not. Once again, for better or worse. “Sometimes you are judged by the company you keep.” Unfortunately.

  8. cryptidsrus responds:

    In other, (simpler) words:

    Henneberg’s credibility is compromised by his being accused of the same dishonesty he accused others of. Pot, kettle, black.

  9. HOOSIERHUNTER responds:

    Youcantryreaching me–
    Thank you for the info. I do wonder though why we would be surprised that brain size and intelligence are not necessarily linked. Certainly we have had smal humans–Tom Thumb of Barnum and Bailey fame comes to mind–and people like this–we call midgets–do not show any loss of intelligence for having a smaller brain than normal size humans. BTW–I would question whether a larger brain and intelligence are linked at all–I know a lot of people who have big heads and some of them don’t seem very intelligent 🙂
    Just kidding.
    Seriously, brain capacity and intelligence are not the real issue, but apparently how much brain area is shown by brain convolutions, which I understand is far more crucial in determining intelligence. Not sure how correct that info is–it’s been a while since I had ananthropology class and it wasn’t my major anyway. Thank you for sharing your insights. They are appreciated.

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