A tiny race of hobbit like creatures who died out 15,000 years ago may not have been Homo sapiens but a different species entirely.
Fossils of Homo floresiensis, nicknamed ‘the hobbits’ due to their tiny stature, were discovered on the island of Flores in 2003. Ever since, there’s been fierce debate as to whether they were an unknown branch of early humans or more modern men deformed by disease, ABC.net.au reports.
However, new analysis of the skull bones has shown that the fun-sized people were definitely not Homo sapiens.
Until now, academics have been torn on the issue. One school of thought believed that the hobbits were descended from the larger Homo erectus and became smaller over hundreds of generations, through a process called ‘insular dwarfing’.
Other researchers argued that the diminutive people were in fact modern humans whose tiny size and small brain, no bigger than a grapefruit, was caused by a genetic disorder.
But this latest study by France’s Natural History Museum has put both arguments to bed.
The study’s lead author Antoine Balzeau said:
There is a lot of information contained in bone layers of the skull, there were no characteristics from our species — that is, Homo sapiens.
There was also no evidence of genetic disease or other disorders. The debate is not entirely over though and it remains to be seen whether the hobbit was just a scaled-down version of Homo erectus, or a species it its own right.
The researchers should just have a look around for comfy hobbit holes in the hillside, that’ll be the giveaway…