Hobbit found in Indonesia

Posted by jerry on October 28th, 2004 — Posted in History, Journal

What a find! The remains of a one metre (3′) tall adult female hominid has been found on the Indonesian island of Flores. Nicknamed ‘the Hobbit’ the fossil skeleton of a relative of homo erectus (precursor species of human) was reported in the scientific journal Nature and has been identified as a new and previously unknown branch of the human genera, named homo floresiensis. It seems the floresiensis was an intelligent hunter and now skeletal remains have been found and dated to as recent as 12000 years ago – so they were clearly coexisting with modern humans.

Archeologists believe homo erectus arrived on the island about one million years ago evolving into the diminutive relative as an adaptation to island life, hunting similarly diminutive elephants the size of water buffalo (so there’s enough left over for second breakfast!). However, scientists believe that if the time of arrival has been correctly determined, they must have arrived by boat! Do we have here the makings of a story in which a few surviving hobbits were taken to the safety of a far distant island by some friendly elves? Probably not. But the presence of sophisticated stone tools indicates a far more intelligent creature than its chimp-sized brain would suggest – perhaps intelligent enough to build a basic water craft.

As the BBC article notes:
“Even more intriguing is the fact that Flores’ inhabitants have incredibly detailed legends about the existence of little people on the island they call Ebu Gogo.

The islanders describe Ebu Gogo as being about one metre tall, hairy and prone to “murmuring” to each other in some form of language. They were also able to repeat what islanders said to them in a parrot-like fashion.”

And there is the intriguing possibility that a few descendants still live in the region…

Yet there are hints H. floresiensis could have lived on much later than this. The myths say Ebu Gogo were alive when Dutch explorers arrived a few hundred years ago and the very last legend featuring the mythical creatures dates to 100 years ago.

But Henry Gee, senior editor at Nature magazine, goes further. He speculates that species like H.floresiensis might still exist, somewhere in the unexplored tropical forest of Indonesia.

The commonality of legends throughout the world of hirsute little people living alongside much bigger modern humans has been given new strength by this discovery. Such legends are of course the source material that anthropologist and Scandinavian linguist JRR Tolkein drew upon in his tales of the hobbits. Who knows? Perhaps the legends were closer to the truth than previously realised!

Cheers
Jerry

1 Comment »

Comment by Erik John Bertel

This is a great story and we’ll know more once the original research team gets back to the caves in Flores. Hard to believe, but their work was halted by the Indonesian government at one point. There is more on this ongoing controversy about Homo floresiensis at http://www.floresgirl.com.

Erik John Bertel

Posted on May 3, 2007 at 4:46 am

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