“Hobbits” found in Indonesia This 2012 photo provided by the Smithsonian Institution and the Liang Bua Team shows Liang Bua, a limestone cave on the Indonesian island of Flores, as the Liang Bua Team prepares for new archaeological excavations. (Smithsonian Digitization Program Office and Liang Bua Team via AP)
“Hobbits” found in Indonesia
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It was a spectacular discovery. Fossil remains in an Indonesian cave have revealed a recent relative of modern humans. It stood about 3 feet tall. The creatures were quickly nicknamed "hobbits."
 
With evidence that they had survived to just 12,000 years ago, the hobbits appeared to have been the last of our companions on the human branch of the evolutionary tree to go extinct.
 
Now, a decade after they made headlines, they've lost that distinction. New investigations indicate they evidently disappeared much earlier. They disappeared about 50,000 years ago, before Neanderthals did, for example.
 
The new date raises speculation about whether hobbits were doomed by the arrival of modern humans on their island. But it doesn't change much about their scientific significance. That is according to Matt Tocheri of Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
 
He and others wrote the new paper with three of the researchers who'd first reported the discovery in 2004. The paper was released March 30 by the journal Nature.
 
The hobbits are formally known as Homo floresiensis. The name reflects their home on the Indonesian island of Flores. With small, chimp-sized brains, the hobbits had skulls that resembled Homo erectus. Homo erectus lived in Africa and Asia. But the hobbits also had long arms and short legs. Those harkened back to the much older evolutionary forerunners best known for the skeleton dubbed Lucy.
 
It's not clear where they fit in the human family tree. They may have descended from taller ancestors who shrank because of their isolation on the island. Some scientists have argued they were diseased modern humans rather than a separate species. But experts called that a minority view. Several said the new dates make it less likely.
 
Hobbits evidently made the stone tools that were found along with skeletal remains in the Liang Bua cave. The new analysis says the remains are 100,000 to 60,000 years old. However, the artifacts range in age from about 190,000 to 50,000 years.
 
Researchers revised the original age estimates after new excavations revealed more about the geology of the cave. Sediments were sampled to date the artifacts and bones.
 
"I think it's a terrific paper," said Bernard Wood of George Washington University. He had no role in the research. "They have done everything you can possibly ask."
 
So did the arrival of modern humans spell the end for the hobbits, as is proposed for the demise of the Neanderthals in Europe and Asia about 40,000 years ago?
 
There's no evidence that modern humans occupied Flores until long after the hobbits were gone. But they are known to have lived not far away, in Australia, some 50,000 years ago. That is right about the time the hobbits evidently disappeared.
 
"It is certainly suggestive," said anthropologist Karen Baab of Midwestern University in Glendale, Arizona. Baab studies the hobbits but didn't participate in the new work.
 
Richard Roberts of the University of Wollongong in Australia, a study author, said in an email it is "certainly a possibility to be considered, but solid evidence is needed in order to demonstrate it. One thing we can be certain of, it will definitely be a major focus of further research."

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
How does evidence indicate the height of the “hobbits?”
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (115)
  • kaylip-hol
    4/05/2016 - 02:04 p.m.

    the evidence suggests the height of Hobbits because the Hobbits bones were recovered and the size of them tells scientists their height.

    • karymer-hei
      4/12/2016 - 03:59 p.m.

      That is a really good explanation but next time remember to capitalize the first letter of your sentence.

  • annae-bru
    4/05/2016 - 03:14 p.m.

    According to the article hobbits are up to 3 feet tall.Hobbits made the stone tools that were found along with skeletal stuff in the Liang cave. The new analysis says the remains are 100,000 to 60,000 years old. However, the artifacts range in age from about 190,000 to 50,000 years.It will definitely be a major focus of further research.And thats what a thought was interesting!

    • karymer-hei
      4/12/2016 - 03:58 p.m.

      I also thought that was interesting.

      • emmem-hei
        4/13/2016 - 10:58 a.m.

        I agree with you.

    • joshual-tar
      5/04/2016 - 12:52 p.m.

      I also agree with you. That was really interesting.

  • davidc-dal
    4/05/2016 - 08:26 p.m.

    It doesn't seem right that they called a human species creatures.
    The article says that they died out before modern humans lived in the area, but then says that some lived nearby. Maybe they are suggesting that they fought each other for food.

  • william1108-yyca
    4/05/2016 - 08:59 p.m.

    I wonder why they called the cave a hobbit. Maybe because it is from the movie where they were in the cave. But also I never knew that stone tools could be found in caves that old. Looking at the image in the article the cave looks so cool. There are spikes and a nice color. And also they have survived to just 12,000 years. That is amazing. Maybe one day I will learn more about the hobbit not the hobbit book or movie.

  • ben0424-yyca-byo
    4/05/2016 - 09:42 p.m.

    It's interesting that we found another step in evolution. It was old, but I just heard about this, and a lot of people probably did. It seems interesting to name them hobbits though. There aren't lots of things named after books or objects, and this is the first one I've heard of. It seems reasonable to name them hobbits though, because they are short.
    Critical Thinking Question Answer: The evidence indicates the height of the "hobbits", because we can measure them with the bones we have.

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    4/05/2016 - 10:38 p.m.

    The researchers might have been able to find a fossil that is known as the hobbits which researchers had been able to find while excavating in a cave where the skeletal system of the hobbits had been found. The archaeologists might have been able to get out the skeletal system of the hobbits which they had been able to find stone tools that the hobbits had used to defend or use it for something else. The hobbits might have died out before the Neanderthals had even died out at the same time that the hobbits had died out before humans had started to expand. People might have been able to find the fossils of the hobbits which scientists might have been able to find out that there are other kinds of species that are just like humans.
    Critical Thinking Question: How does evidence indicate the height of the "hobbits?"
    Answer: Evidence can show from the skeletal system in the excavation which the hobbits are shorter than the height of a human.

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