Theodorus Verhoeven

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Theodorus (Theo) Lambertus Verhoeven (* 1907 , † 1990 ) was a Dutch priest and missionary S.VD the Roman Catholic Church , which in the 1950s and 1960s to the Catholic seminaries Mataloko and Ritapiret on the Indonesian island of Flores worked was. His archaeological and paleontological excavations on Flores - between 1950 and 1967 in the Soa basin and in the Liang Bua cave, among others  - showed other researchers the way to rich fossil deposits in the 1990s and led to the discovery of Homo floresiensis in 2003 . His name is sometimes shortened to Theodor Verhoeven in scientific literature .


Theodorus Verhoeven studied classical languages ​​at the University of Utrecht and received his doctorate in 1948 with a dissertation Studiën over Tertullianus ' Adversus Praxean, voornamelijk betrekking hebbend op Monarchia, Oikonomia, Probola in verband met de Triniteit . With a break of one and a half years, most of which he spent in Holland, he lived for almost 16 years on Flores, where he first visited the later site of Homo floresiensis , the Liang Bua cave, which was previously used as a primary school, in 1950 .

Paleontological research on Flores

In 1956, the Raja of Nage Keo Verhoevens drew attention to the bones in the Soa basin, near the abandoned village of Ola Bula, which were exposed by erosion . The result of his large-scale excavations - especially numerous findings of Stegodon - bone - published Verhoeven first time in 1958. After an argument with the Raja of the amount of the fee for further excavations sought Verhoeven for alternatives in the Soa Basin, which he roughly 3.5 km found by Ola Bula. From 1963 onwards, along with other Stegodon fossils , he uncovered stone tools for the first time, including choppers and hand axes, at the sites known as Mata Quantity, Lemba Quantity and Boa Lesa . Verhoeven concluded that Stegodon and early individuals of the genus Homo had coexisted on Flores. Because it had been proven on Java that Homo erectus and Stegodon coexisted there around 750,000 years ago, Verhoeven also suspected in a paper published in 1968 that the stone tools of Flores were similarly old and that Homo erectus had therefore also colonized Flores. Further excavations confirmed this assumption and were reflected in two publications in 1970, which were published together with a priest-anthropologist, Johannes Maringer from the Anthropos Institute .

However, the paleoanthropologists main occupation distrusted the conclusions of the two priests: On the one doubts that the discovered stones were actually machined tooling, secondly, the dating was not believed and assumed that the stone tools were younger and randomly into deeper, Stegodon- leading Soil layers could be advised. In addition, even during the Ice Ages , Flores was always completely surrounded by water, there were strong currents between the neighboring islands, and Homo erectus was not believed to be able to build ocean-going watercraft. The disregard of Verhoeven's conclusions also contributed to the fact that Verhoeven's publications were mostly in German and not in English.

Verhoeven's studies were only taken seriously at the end of the 1970s, after he was visited by Paul Sondaar (1934-2003) from the University of Utrecht , a student of Gustav Heinrich Ralph von Koenigswald, in connection with his findings on Flores . In 1992 and 1994, field studies by Sondaar, Fachroel Aziz and others actually showed that stone tools and Stegodon bones recovered from Mata Menge are around 730,000 years old; but this dating was also initially doubted by experts. Only after an age determination of further finds by zirconium fissure trace dating was published in the scientific journal Nature , the interpretation of the finds by Flores, as published by Verhoeven 40 years earlier, was recognized. The subsequent, targeted search for further traces of this early colonization by Homo led to the discovery of Homo floresiensis in the Liang Bua cave in 2003 .

In addition to the excavations in the Soa Basin, Verhoeven had archaeologically examined numerous limestone caves, including Liang Bua, Liang Panas, Liang Michael, Liang Momer, Liang Toge, Batu Cermin, Liang Melima and Liang Tekip.


After Theodorus Verhoeven, a fossilized species of the Flores giant rats that has been endemic to the island of Flores was named, Papagomys theodorverhoeveni .


  • Robert G. Bednarik: The maritime dispersal of Pleistocene humans. In: Migration and Diffusion. Volume 3, No. 10, 2002, pp. 6–33, full text (PDF)
  • Knepper, Gert M. (2019): Floresmens - Het leven van Theo Verhoeven, missionaris en archeoloog . ISBN 978-9-46-3892476 (Boekscout, Soest, Netherlands) (= Verhoevens biography, in Dutch)

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Bo Beolens, Michael Watkins, Michael Grayson: The eponym dictionary of mammals. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore 2009, ISBN 978-0-8018-9304-9 , p. 428
  2. a b Mike J. Morwood et al .: Preface: research at Liang Bua, Flores, Indonesia. In: Journal of Human Evolution 57, 2009, pp. 437-449, DOI: 10.1016 / j.jhevol.2009.07.003
  3. a b c Fachroel Aziz, Michael J. Morwood: Introduction: Pleistocene Geology, Palaeontology and Archeology of the Soa Basin, Central Flores, Indonesia. In: Fachroel Aziz, Michael J. Morwood, Gert D. van den Bergh (Eds.): Pleistocene Geology, Palaeontology and Archeology of the Soa Basin, Central Flores, Indonesia. Publication of the Center for Geological Survey, Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, Republic of Indonesia, Special Publication No. 36, 2009, pp. 1-17. ISSN  0852-873X
  4. ^ Theodor Verhoeven: Pleistocene finds in Flores. In: Anthropos 53, 1958, pp. 264-265
  5. ^ Theodor Verhoeven: Prehistoric research on Flores, Timor and Sumba. In: Anthropica, memorial to the 100th birthday of P. Wilhelm Schmidt. Studia Instituti Anthropos, Volume 21, St. Augustin 1968, pp. 393-404
  6. Johannes Maringer, Theodor Verhoeven: The stone artifacts from the Stegodon fossil layer from Mengeruda on Flores, Indonesia . In: Anthropos 65, 1970, pp. 229-247.
    Johannes Maringer, Theodor Verhoeven: Note on some stone artifacts in the National Archeological Institute of Indonesia at Djakarta, collected from the Stegodon-fossil bed at Boaleza in Flores. In: Anthropos 65, 1970, pp. 638-639
  7. ^ Paul Yves Sondaar et al .: Changement de faune au Pléistocène moyen et colonization de l'île de Flores (Indonésie) par Homo erectus. In: Comptes rendus de l'Académie des sciences. Series 2. Sciences de la terre et des planètes , Volume 319, No. 10, 1994, pp. 1255-1262, ISSN  1251-8050
  8. Mike J. Morwood et al .: Fission-track ages of stone tools and fossils on the east Indonesian island of Flores. In: Nature 392, 1998, pp. 173–176, DOI: 10.1038 / 32401
    Images of the stone tool finds from Mata Menge discovered in 1994 (from: Mike J. Morwood et al., 1998)