Hobbit-Sized Humans

In 2004, what was discovered in Indonesia, on the island of Flores?

And the answer: skeletons of hobbit-sized human species.    

Photo credit: Beawiharta Beawiharta/Reuters. 

In 2004, a team of researchers discovered the remains of a hobbit-sized human, one that stood about a meter tall. It's believed that the species lived with Pygmy elephants and giant lizards on a remote island in Indonesia about 60,000 years ago.

While Bilbo and Frodo may have been invented by J.R.R. Tolkien, scientists have recently discovered a species of ancient human that walks the line of fantasy and reality. On the Indonesian island of Flores, the teeth of up to 12 Homo floresiensis have been recovered. This remarkable species of human (for which scientists had to create a new category altogether) clocks in at just over 3 feet tall and weighs an estimated 55 pounds.

At the time of their discovery, scientists believed the species suffered a disease or growth disorder within the Homo sapien family tree (the tree to which all living human beings now belong), but the Homo floresiensis is now considered a separate human species. Scientists believe that the small, predator-free human species survived by creating stone tools that they used to hunt small elephants and rodents on the island (in fact, animal remains on the island have revealed similarly unique genetic structures: tiny elephants and giant rodents are but some of the few abnormalities).

These small, ancient humans of Flores are still largely a mystery to archaeologists and anthropologists alike. The fossils of H. floresiensis date to between about 100,000 and 60,000 years ago, but stone tools made by this species date to between about 190,000 and 50,000 years old. Ancestors of the species are now believed to have reigned on the island around 700,000 years ago, suggesting that these remarkably small-brained humans were a thriving, independent species for many generations.  

Learn more about the real-life hobbits here.


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