An extinct species of hobbits has recently been unearthed on Flores Island, proving that our notions of the past have barely scratched the surface of reality.

In an archaeologic digging site known as Mata Mange, in Indonesia’s Flores island, the remains of a 700,000-year-old and 1-meter tall hobbit have been found by an international team of researchers. The fossils have been identified as jaw fragments and six teeth belonging to an adult and two infants.

So far, they are uncertain whether this anthropological relic represents a new stage in human evolution or is just an anomaly of a formerly known hominin species.

Adding up to the mystery of this new discovery is the resemblance with the Homo floresiensis, despite the unbelievable gap of 600,000 years that come between them. The few discovered fossils offer enough clues regarding its origins, although strikingly similar traits can be found in both Homo floresiensis and the so-called hobbit race.


The reconstruction of Homo floresiensis from 2012

Studying the morphology of the teeth, it can also be concluded that the hobbits may represent the dwarfed heir of Homo erectus, that by some means ended up stranded on Flores Island.

These essential details can make historians and archaeologists alike to reconsider the entire human prehistoric timeline. If the suspicions are right, this hobbit species may have coexisted with the modern humans, until 12,000 years ago.

Looking for a quick and satisfying answer, some scientists postulated that this alleged hobbit species is nothing more than a physical disorder mistaken for an evolutionary course.

This find has important implications for our understanding of early human dispersal and evolution in the region and quashes once and for all any doubters that believe Homo floresiensis was merely a sick modern human (Homo sapiens),” said lead researcher Gert van den Bergh, from the University of Wollongong in Australia.

However, compelling evidence dismounts this hasty explanation, suggesting that the hobbits were an actual migrant species, roaming the lands of today’s Indonesia long before Homo sapiens came to be.

All the pieces of data gathered so far helped in defining the minimum size of Homo floresiensis and by default, the exact timeline when it occurred, 700,000 years ago.


A modern human skull (right) next to a hobbit skull (left), with the newly discovered 700,000-year-old jaw fragment overlaid

Another theory and perhaps the most plausible, comes from the scientists that made this discovery: evolutionary relapse from an upright Homo erectus to a shrunk version, the hobbit. In addition to the relapse, tools found at the dig site belonging to the hobbit species, date back to a staggering 1,000,000 years, which shows the fact that hobbits spent enough time on Flores Island, to readapt to its environment.

It is conceivable that the tiny Homo floresiensis evolved its miniature body proportions during the initial 300,000 years on Flores, and is thus a dwarfed side lineage that ultimately derives from Homo erectus,said van den Bergh.
It is also possible that this lineage pre-dates the first hominin arrival on Flores, implying speciation occurred on a stepping-stone island between Asia and Flores, such as Sulawesi.”

The hobbits’ mystery is far from being solved, so the digging site is continuously explored deeper into the riverbed, hopefully to find more skeletal remains and complete the puzzle.

So far, all these clues seem to build a pretty strong reason for all scientists out there to get back to the drawing board and fancy us a more accurate hominin family tree. Whatever the result, the world of paleoanthropology is ready for a potential breakthrough.

Thirteen years have passed since the first discovery of the original hobbit species but tomorrow may hold unexpected surprises and minds must be kept wide open for the truth and any shape it may take, or who knows what headlines will shake-up our world.

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