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Discovered in 2003 in Liang Bua cave, Homo floresiensis stood about three and a half feet tall and weighed around 75 lbs. Because of their stature, they were nicknamed for the diminutive heroes in J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous novels. The discovery team originally estimated that these ‘halflings’ lived as recently as 12,000 years ago, which would mean that they outlived Neanderthals and might well have crossed paths with modern humans. This caused a lot of hub bub.

Work continues to excavate the sediments in Liang Bua Cave

Work continues to excavate the sediments in Liang Bua Cave

However, a fresh look at the site where the fossils were found puts a twist on the tale… The latest evidence suggests that hobbits vanished from the island far earlier than thought, casting the chances of a cross-species encounter in a new light. The new analysis, asserts that the skeletal remains of H. floresiensis are more likely between 100,000 and 60,000 years old, and their stone tools date from as far back as 190,000 years to around 50,000 years ago. That suggests these evolutionary cousins did not exist for long after modern humans arrived in the region some 50,000 years ago.

Study co-author Matthew Tocheri of Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario says,

“At the time of the initial discovery, not enough of the older deposits had been exposed, and this led to an error in the interpretation of how the dates obtained at that time applied to the sediments that contained the hobbit remains.”

This new date for the Flores Hobbit actually resolves what had always been a head-scratcher: how was it possible for H. floresiensis to survive for 30,000 to 40,000 years after modern humans are believed to have passed through Indonesia? It now seems that humans weren’t living alongside this species for very long, if at all, and that modern humans may have wiped them out.

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