“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)
  • jenaem-col
    4/06/2016 - 02:53 p.m.

    Well, fossil remains would include things like bones. The proportions of the bones would easily indicate the "hobbits'" height. For example, the leg bones would most likely be significantly shorter then ours, seeing as the are apparently 3 feet tall. "It stood about 3 feet tall."

  • bodel-col
    4/06/2016 - 03:05 p.m.

    I wonder what it would be like if Hobbits were around today?! It seems cool that there were once Hobbit like people roaming the Earth. I wish I could go back hundreds of years to see these hobbits!

  • rainam-col
    4/06/2016 - 03:06 p.m.

    You can tell by the bones in the cave that they had small sculls and brains and that showed that they must have had small bodies. There were fossils in the cave also that shoed parts of the body showing that it was small. We also know about Homo erectus and the "Hobbits" resemble them and Homo erectus were small. This is an interesting article, we may have discovered an earlier species.

  • sarab-col
    4/06/2016 - 03:07 p.m.

    They would use the fossils to indicate the height of the hobbit.

  • kaylynm1-col
    4/06/2016 - 03:33 p.m.

    Researchers used the size of the brain and the skeleton to indicate the size of the "hobbits". "With small, chimp-sized brains, the hobbits had skulls that resembled Homo erectus... But the hobbits also had long arms and short legs." Researchers think that the "hobbits" may have been diseased humans or just descendants of tall people who shrank do to isolation on the island, Flores.

  • harace-cam
    4/07/2016 - 01:23 a.m.

    The size of the bones are shorter than ours so they can guess height of the hobbits

  • waverlyb-612-
    4/07/2016 - 08:35 a.m.

    The evidence that indicates the name "hobbit" is because they stood just 3 feet tall and they soon got the nickname.

  • richardp-wes
    4/07/2016 - 09:06 a.m.

    The evidence indicates the height of the hobbits by putting bones together and measuring them which will tell you the height of the hobbit averagely

  • samanthas-1-ste
    4/07/2016 - 11:13 a.m.

    The fossils were found and they might have just shrunk because of the years being on the island. They almost sound like they could be related to chimps because of there long arms and short legs.

  • kenziej-nic
    4/07/2016 - 12:21 p.m.

    Because of their skeletons show the height of the hobbits.
    also, it shows how long they may have been there or lived.

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