In 2003, researchers excavating a limestone cave on the remote Indonesian island of Flores made an extraordinary discovery: the 18,000-year-old bones of a woman whose skull was less than one-third the size of our own. These were given the name of Hobbit, also called “Flores Man” and Homo floresiensis, species of small arhaic human that inhabited the island. Researchers found the remains of an individual who would have stood about 1.1m in height. Along with that, nine other partial skeletons were discovered, including one complete skull which is now referred as “LB1”.
The new study dated layers of volcanic ash and calcite directly above and below the fossils. The bones of H. floresiensis range in age from about 100,000 to 60,000 years old. Stone tools in the cave used by the “hobbit” are from 190,000 to 50,000 years old. Homo floresiensis was one of the last early human species to die out. The new analysis means that this evolutionary relative became extinct around 50,000 years ago, just before or at the time when Homo sapiens arrived in the region.
More on modern discoveries on Hobbits
Further reports have concluded that they date back to the late Pleistocene period and possessed brains one third the size of regular human beings. Studies over the years concluded that they went extinct some 12,000 years ago. But now, an anthropologist from the UK is arguing that no one really knows if Home floresiensis actually went extinct and they may still be alive on the Indonesian island. The entire collection of studies and reports on all the discoveries and therioes have been compiled together in a controversial new book called “Between Ape and Human: An Anthropologist on the Trail of a Hidden Hominoid,” by Gregory Forth, which is set for release on May 3.
Anthropologists theorize that the H. floresiensis had the cognitive ability to make tools, which would be a crucial evolutionary step towards survival. Some critics say that it would have been impossible for a hominid with a brain the size of an orange to make the sophisticated tools found at Ling Bua Cave, let alone hunt with them, and that they must have been crafted by modern humans. But supporters of the separate species hypothesis modeled the shape and structure of the Hobbit brain and say it could have made the tools.
In total, many scientific articles have been published based on analysis of the original skeletal remains of Homo floresiensis, and hundreds of scientific articles and news stories about Homo floresiensis have appeared in print or on the web since the partial skeleton of LB1 was discovered. Excavations at Liang Bua and elsewhere on Flores continue, and hopefully these will shed additional light on the enigmatic hominin species Homo floresiensis, the so-called "hobbits" of human evolution.