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Science

Ancient Tools May Shed Light On the Mysterious 'Hobbit' (sciencemag.org) 35

sciencehabit writes: The "hobbit" had neighbors. Back in 2004, researchers announced the discovery of this tiny, ancient human, which apparently hunted dwarf elephants with stone tools on the Indonesian island of Flores 18,000 years ago. Its discoverers called the 1-meter-tall creature Homo floresiensis, but skeptics wondered whether it was just a stunted modern human. In the years since, researchers have debunked many of the "sick hobbit" hypotheses. Yet scientists have continued to wonder where the species came from.

Now, an international team originally led by the hobbit discoverer reports stone tools, dated to 118,000 to 194,000 years ago, from another Indonesian island, Sulawesi, likely made by another archaic human—or possibly by other hobbits. "It shows that on another island we have evidence of a second archaic early human," says paleoanthropologist Russell Ciochon of the University of Iowa in Iowa City, who was not involved with the work. The discovery makes the original hobbit claim appear more plausible, he says, by suggesting that human ancestors may have island-hopped more often than had been thought.

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Ancient Tools May Shed Light On the Mysterious 'Hobbit'

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  • Timeline (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lodlaiden ( 2767969 ) on Friday January 15, 2016 @07:31PM (#51311201)
    We were advanced enough to be island hopping 200k years ago? That fact was not mentioned in school ever.
  • It just always seemed more likely, given the multitudes of places that hominids evolved before mass transportation was a thing, that our species would vary more widely in size.

    We have the pygmy tribes in which the average male is 1.5m tall and upward human extremes of 2.3m, but the variation in size really only becomes extraordinarily diverse at the Super Family level.

    • by Daniel Matthews ( 4112743 ) on Friday January 15, 2016 @07:59PM (#51311343)
      Size is an adaptation to the amount of food available to each individual of a population.
      • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

        So if we cut people down to 100 calories a day they should fit in the palm of your hand?

      • by jblues ( 1703158 ) on Friday January 15, 2016 @09:55PM (#51311883)
        It is also a good way to shed heat in the humid tropics, where sweating doesn't work very well. The hominids currently populating SE Asia are generally relatively quite small too.
      • It can be an extremely good adaptation for a number of reasons. Body size also effects the speed of your life. From what I understand, these extreme pygmies would of died of old age at about half of a full sized human and sexually matured years earlier (and I suppose that would mean pregnancies would be shorter).

    • All dogs belong to the same species, and their variation is so much larger than what we see in Homo sapiens. Even if we include hominids, I am not sure the variation is larger.
      • Dogs have far far less variation than humans.
        Humans have had a million years of evolution, and have even split off into many different species along the way (like these floresiensis guys). Dogs only have 30K. Relative to the differences found in the human race they are pretty much all clones of eachother.

        • by swb ( 14022 )

          Reading your statement and looking at a picture of a white Pekingese next to a brindled Great Dane and trying to understand how normal, healthy humans can vary by 10x in mass and 3-5x in height and girth.

  • It's "halfling", not "hobbit". Wouldn't want to rouse sleeping drag... er... lawyers.

  • Some tools, based on their function, would indicate the hand size of the user and the hand size should be proportional to the overall body size.
  • There are a lot of islands in that area, many still sparsely populated by "regular" humans. It's possible some of these "hobbits" are still around.

    It would be one of the greatest scientific discoveries if say living homo erectus were found. It's kind of like finding live bigfoot, but on the small.

  • They found what appears to be fossilized fragments of a single density 8 inch floppy disk containing previously unknown, unversioned copies of BDS-C and ZMAC.

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