Peter Brown

About Peter Brown
I spent my early years at Avalon Beach, north of Sydney, before my family relocated to the winter frosts of Canberra in 1966, where I eventually completed a PhD in Palaeoanthropology at the Australian National University in 1982. I have conducted research on collections of hominin, modern human and non-human primate skeletal and dental material in Australia, China, Europe and the UK, Indonesia, India and North America. My primary research interests are in the evolution, origin and dispersion of humans in the Asian and Australasian regions, and the origins and evolution of Homo floresiensis. My current research projects (2016) are on skeletal variation in early H. sapiens populations in China and examining the evidence for Down Syndrome in LB1 Homo floresiensis (now published).

Between 1979 and 1995 I was fortunate to be able to examine large collections of human skeletal material in Australia, Europe and East Asia, providing a valuable foundation in the extent of normal skeletal variation. I believe that this is essential to placing isolated palaeoanthropological and forensic discoveries in their correct biological and evolutionary context. This was crucial in convincing me in the late 1980’s that the multiregional model of human evolution, at least as based on skeletal morphology, was without credible foundation. In East Asia (China) and Australasia there was simply no evidence of the persistence of the claimed regionally distinct anatomical traits through time. The distinctive appearance of modern human populations, for instance East Asians and indigenous Australians, had limited time depth and did not extend to Homo erectus. In my view this leads to a more interesting set of questions to do with the origins, evolution and diversity of Homo sapiens in the Asian and Australasian regions, and the relatively short time period over which it appeared to have happened.

I was employed as a Palaeoanthropologist at the University of New England, Armidale, since 1982, where I taught courses in Human Evolution, Palaeoanthropology and Forensic Anthropology to undergraduates, and supervised postgraduate research. I have also been active in writing forensic reports on human skeletal remains for State and Federal Government authorities, indigenous communities and law enforcement agencies (pro bono), and developers. In 2002-2003 I was fortunate to be appointed as the International Research Professor, Department of Anatomy, Tohoku University Medical School, Sendai. Previously I was aProfessor and holder of the Chair of Palaeoanthropology at UNE and a Visiting Fellow in the School of Archaeology & Anthropology at the Australian National University. I left UNE in March 2014, but continued my research interests with colleagues at the ANU as a Visiting Fellow 2013-2016, enjoyed fishing in my ocean kayak, cross country running and trying not to break anything while riding my mtb.

I have always believed that it is essential that the palaeoanthropological evidence (casts, CT scans ,etc) from which models of human evolution and dispersion are developed, should be much more widely distributed than at present. This should facilitate a more rapid testing and verification of published claims, and is essential to the future of the discipline. For instance there are only a handful of anthropology departments and museums that have copies of the African Pliocene hominin casts that provide evidence of the origins of our species. Of course fossils are fragile and casting programs and CT scanners are expensive to set up and maintain, but without access to the evidence a belief in the substantive basis of evolution is reduced to an article of faith. This was the principal motivation in putting together the resources available in my Australian & Asian palaeoanthropology web site in 1997.

This should not be taken to mean that I believe that all researchers should be entitled to unfettered access to collections of hominin fossils, or other reference collections. Leaving aside the issue of the entitlement, which should stay with the discoverers through their investment, a past history of inexperience, demonstrated incompetence and unethical behaviour should prevent some researchers from ever gaining access. There are some well-known examples of this type of behaviour in palaeoanthropology, most recently in relation to Liang Bua and Homo floresiensis (http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2005/02/17/1108609352631.html) Not surprisingly these squeaky wheels persist in making a lot of noise when denied access, usually on the back of ridiculous claims about discrimination and academic freedom. Absolutely not entitled to any sympathy from me, or anyone else.

As of August 2016 I intend to take retirement more seriously and my accumulated research materials, including those for Homo floresiensis and Pleistocene Australia, will be consigned to the incinerator. After two decades my palaeoanthropology pages will be taken off line in 2017 when my current hosting account comes to an end. For me, it's well passed time to move on and free up some storage space in the brain box and in my house.

Peter can be contacted at palaeoanth@iinet.net.au


Recent discussions and reviews of Peter’s research (2000-2014)
Nature, Science, Scientific American (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=digging-deeper-qa-with-pe), Scientific American Japanese edition, New Scientist (http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg18424711.000-meet-our-new-human-relatives.html ), Australasian Science, National Geographic, SEED, Science & Vie, Skeptical Inquirer (http://www.csicop.org/si/archive/category/volume_33.4), Twenty-First Century, BBC Focus, National Geographic Kids, Sciences et Avenir, darwin, Yes Mag, Science News, Discover, Geotimes, Popular Science, Swiat Nauki, Les Debrouillards, Geokompakt, Die Weltwoche, ScienceNews for Kids (http://www.sciencenewsforkids.org/2012/04/hobbits-our-tiny-cousins/), The Australian (http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/hobbit-species-may-not-have-been-human/story-e6frgcjx-1225780955541, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/evolutionary-dispute-shapes-up/story-e6frgcjx-1225900776432), The London Times, The NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/28/science/28tiny.html?_r=1, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0DEED8163FF931A25753C1A9639C8B63), The Guardian, other newspapers in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia, BBC World Service, and textbooks on human evolution and palaeoanthropology.

Speaking engagements (2000-2011)
Peter has given invited public lectures on his research in London (sponsored by UCL), New York (sponsored by the Werner Gren Foundation and Natural History Museum), and Tokyo (sponsored by the Natural History Museum). He has also participated in several lecture tours of U.S. campuses for the Lavin Agency, and has been an invited speaker at universities, museums and scientific meetings in the UK, PRC, Hong Kong, Germany, Japan, USA, South Africa and Australia.

Documentary participation
Between 1984 and 2009 Peter participated in documentaries focusing on aspects of Australian and Asian palaeoanthropology, the repatriation of human skeletal remains to indigenous communities, and most recently the discovery of Homo floresiensis (the Hobbit).


ABC Catalyst http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/s1376905.htm
BBC Horizon “The mystery of the human hobbit” http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/tvradio/programmes/horizon/hobbit_prog_summary.shtml
ABC “The hobbit enigma”. Produced by Real Pictures this documentary has a different emphasis and factual basis to the one made by the BBC.
http://www.documentary-log.com/the-hobbit-enigma/
NOVA “Alien from earth” same as above but modified for US audience, with a different set of problems.
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/evolution/alien-earth.html

Internet publications
Peter Brown’s Australian and Asian Palaeoanthropology (1997-2012)
http://www-personal.une.edu.au/~pbrown3/palaeo.html (archived at the link below)
National Library of Australia PANDORA archive (1997-2011)
http://pandora.nla.gov.au/tep/10345

Publications that give an indication of Peter’s research interests

Baab KL, Brown P, Falk D, Richtsmeier JT, Hildebolt CF, Smith K, Jungers, W. 2016. A Critical Evaluation of the Down Syndrome Diagnosis for LB1, Type Specimen of Homo floresiensis. PLoS ONE 11 (6): e0155731. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0155731

Baab, K.L., Falk, D., Brown, P., Richtsmeier, J.T., McNulty, K., Hildebolt, C.F., Prior, F.W., Smith, K.E., Jungers, W. A re-evaluation of the Down syndrome diagnosis for LB1 (Homo floresiensis). American Journal of Physical Anthropology (Accepted).  ABSTRACT

Brown P. 2013. Palaeoanthropology: Of humans, dogs and tiny tools. Nature 494: 316-317.

Brown P. 2012. LB1 and LB6 Homo floresiensis are not modern human (Homo sapiens) cretins. J Hum Evol 62:201-224.

Brown P, and Mizoguchi, Y. 2011. Identifying the influence of artificial neurocranial deformation on craniofacial dimensions. Bull. Nat. Mus. Sci, Series D 37: 1-33.

Brown P. 2010. Nacurrie 1: Mark of ancient Java, or a caring mother’s hands, in terminal Pleistocene Australia? J Hum Evol. 59: 168-187.

Brown P. 2010. Head shape modification helps explain the origin of the Austraians, Australasian Science, November: 18-21.

Falk D, Hildebolt C, Smith K, Brown P, Jungers W, Larson S, Sutikna T, and Prior F. 2010. Nonpathological asymmetry in LB1 (Homo floresiensis): A reply to Eckhardt and Henneberg. Am J Phys Anthropol 143(3):340-342.

Brown P, and Maeda T. 2009. Liang Bua Homo floresiensis mandibles and mandibular teeth: a contribution to the comparative morphology of a new hominin species. J Hum Evol 57(5):571-596.

Brown P. 2008. Les surprises du petit dernier. Le Dossiers de la Recherche. 32: 86-93.

Baab, K.L., McNulty, K.P., Brown, P. 2007. Allometric scaling of craniofacial shape: implications for the Liang Bua hominins. PaleoAnthropology A2. ABSTRACT

Brown P. 2005. Once upon a time, in a cave on Flores. Australasian Science February: 17-19.

Falk D, Hildebolt C, Smith K, Morwood M, Sutikna T, Brown P, Jatmiko, Saptomo E, Brunsden B, and Prior F. 2005b. The brain of LB1, Homo floresiensis. Science 308:242-245.

Morwood M, Brown P, Sutikna T, and Saptomo E. 2005. Further evidence for small-bodied hominins from the Late Pleistocene of Flores, Indonesia. Nature 437: 1012-1017.


Brown P, and Maeda T. 2004. Post-Pleistocene diachronic change in East Asian facial skeletons: the size, shape and volume of the orbits. Anthropological Science 112:29-40.

Brown P, Sutikna T, Morwood M, and Soejono R. 2004. A new small-bodied hominin from the Late Pleistocene of Flores, Indonesia. Nature 431: 1055-1061.

Brown P. 2003. Post-Pleistocene diachronic change in the facial skeleton: a comparison and testing of models. Anthropological Science 111(1):102.

Brown P. 2002a. East Asian Paleoanthropology. In: Levinson D, and Christenson K, editors. Encyclopedia of Modern Asia. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. p 445-448.

Brown P. 2002b. Southeast Asian Paleoanthropology. In: Levinson D, and Christensen K, editors. Encyclopedia of Modern Asia. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. p 452-454.

Brown P. 2001. Chinese Middle Pleistocene hominids and modern human origins in east Asia. In: Barham L, and Robson Brown K, editors. Human Roots - Africa and Asia in the Middle Pleistocene. Bristol: Western Academic & Specialist Press. p 135-145.

Brown P. 2000a. The first Australians. Australasian Science 21(4): 28-31.

Brown P. 2000b. Pleistocene variation and the sex of Lake Mungo 3. J Hum Evol 38: 743-750.

Brown P. 1998. The first Mongoloids?: Another look at Upper Cave 101, Liujiang and Minatogawa 1. Acta Anthropologica Sinica 17(4):255-275.

Brown P. 1997. Australian Palaeoanthropology. In: Spencer F, editor. History of Physical Anthropology: An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland Publishing. p 138-145.

Brown P. 1996b. The first modern East Asians?: another look at Upper Cave, Liujang and Minatogawa 1. In: Omoto K, editor. Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Origins of the Japanese. Kyoto: International Research Center for Japanese Studies. p 105-124.

Brown, P. 1994. A flawed vision: sex and robusticity on King Island. Australian Archaeology 38: 1-7.

Brown P. 1994. Vault thickness in Asian Homo erectus and modern Homo sapiens. Courier Forschungs-Institut Senckenberg 171:33-46.

Brown P. 1992a. Post-Pleistocene change in Australian Aboriginal tooth size: dental reduction or relative expansion? In: Brown T, and Molnar S, editors. Human craniofacial variation in Pacific Populations. Adelaide: Anthropology and Genetics Laboratory, University of Adelaide. p 33-52.

Brown P. 1992b. Recent human evolution in East Asia and Australasia. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society London, Series B 337:235-242.

Brown P. 1990. Osteological definitions of 'Anatomically Modern' Homo sapiens: a test using Modern and Terminal Pleistocene Homo sapiens. In: Freedman L, editor. Is our future limited by our past? Perth: Centre for Human Biology The University of Western Australia. p 51-74.

Brown P. 1989. Coobool Creek: A morphological and metrical analysis of the crania, mandibles and dentitions of a prehistoric Australian human population. Terra Australis 13. Australian National University. 205 p.

Brown P. 1988. How the first Australians arrived. Aust Nat Hist Supplement 2:52-57.

Brown P. 1987a. Cranial vault thickness in Northern Chinese, European and Australian Aboriginal populations. Acta Anthrop Sin 6:10-15.

Brown P. 1987b. Pleistocene homogeneity and Holocene size reduction: the Australian human skeletal evidence. Archaeol Oceania 22:41-71.

Brown P. 1981. Artificial cranial deformation: a component in the variation in Pleistocene Australian Aboriginal crania. Archaeol Oceania 16:156-167.

Brown P. 1981b. Sex determination of Aboriginal crania from the Murray River Valley: a reassessment of the Larnach and Freedman technique. Archaeology in Oceania 16: 53-63.