Back in 2003, the fossilized skeletons of diminutive humans were found on the Indonesian island of Flores. The skeletons, which dated back at least 15,000 years were dubbed “hobbits” because they were tiny compared to modern man and have been the subject of intense debate following their discovery. After a recent study, researchers believe they have finally put the argument to rest.
The heart of the debate over Homo floresiensis, or “hobbits”, was whether or not they were actually a completely different species of human or just a genetic defect. One school of thought was that the tiny little humanoids, who were about 3 feet tall and weighed 55 pounds, were a result of a process known as “insular dwarfing”. Basically, as a species moves around and their food supply becomes more scarce, they shrink in size over generations. This theory was supported by the presence of a tiny elephant species also found on Flores Island that was thought to develop and evolve under the same conditions.
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The other thought was that the “hobbits” were simply a group of ancient humans that had a genetic disorder. The “hobbits” weren’t only just smaller in size, their brains were smaller. Scientists argued that the “hobbit’s” size was caused by dwarfism.
In the past, all of the examinations of the “hobbit” remains was purely visual. The most recent study, which was published in the Journal of Human Evolution, utilized a high-tech method of imaging to examine the layers of bone in the “hobbit” skulls. The study’s lead author, Antoine Balzeau, said “So far, we have been basing our conclusions on images where you don’t really see very much. There is a lot of information contained in bone layers of the skull.”
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Although their findings were not 100% conclusive, what Balzeau’s team did find was that there were no signs of genetic diseases believed to cause the “hobbit’s” tiny size. Balzeau went on to say, “There were no characteristics from our species”—that is, Homo sapiens.”
This study is the first step in establishing the origins of this amazing species of ancient hominid, and the mysteries of human evolution as a whole. As more information is gathered and analyzed, these mysteries are slowly being solved. All I know is that if they find a ring with the fossils, the argument is over.