More Real-Life Hobbits Found on Indonesian Island

And they were even older and smaller than we thought
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 8, 2016 5:15 PM CDT
More Real-Life Hobbits Found on Indonesian Island
A reconstruction model of Homo floresiensis, better known as a hobbit.   (Kinez Riza via AP)

We know hobbits existed. And we know humans may have killed them off. But new fossils discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2014—and announced Wednesday via two papers in Nature—show they were older and smaller than previously believed. Gizmodo reports the remains of the first hobbits—scientifically known as Homo floresiensis—were found in the Liang Bua cave in 2003. USA Today describes the hobbits as no taller than an average US kindergartner. The new remains—amounting to a lower jaw and six teeth from three individuals, according to the Guardian—were the first found outside Liang Bua. They were also 500,000 years older than the fossils at Liang Bua, dating back 700,000 years.

Skeptics of Homo floresiensis as its own species believed the hobbits could have simply been Homo sapiens with a congenital disease. Gerrit van den Bergh, who found the new fossils, says they “quash once and for all any doubters that believe Homo floresiensis was merely a sick modern human.” Thats because they predate modern humans by half-a-million years and appear to be descended from Homo erectus. Researchers say a group of Homo erectus somehow got stuck on Flores a million years ago and spent the next 300,000 years shrinking in a process known as "insular dwarfism." "Being big is no longer an advantage when you’re trying to survive in such an isolated and challenging environment,” researcher Adam Brumm tells the Guardian. (Fossils show humans and "unicorns" may have coexisted.)

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