In 2003, Australian and Indonesian scientists unearthed a tiny hominin that is now referred to as the “Hobbit of Flores.” Since that time, more of these hobbits, which researchers say were members of a species they have named Homo floresiensis, have been found. The scientists dated the time these hobbits lived on earth. They were not our ancestors, according to floresiensis experts. They were a distinctly different species that walked this earth at the the same time as modern man. Much like the hobbits in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, the real-life hobbits are believed to be now-extinct “relatives” of Homo sapiens.
Homo sapiens lived simultaneously with other species of early humans in the human family tree. The Smithsonian features an interactive timeline of human evolution that includes our ancestors and our “distant cousins.” Unlike other early human species, the hobbits shared the earth with humans for well over 75,000 years and were here with us as recently as 12,000 years ago, according to Science 2.0. One paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) last year contested the claims that the hobbits were actually another species of hominins. In that paper, the hobbits of Flores were said to be merely an early example of Down’s syndrome, Inquisitr reported. That paper enraged scientists around the world, though.
Professor Dean Falk, a floresiensis expert from Florida State University, said the following.
“It is interesting their paper contains no images of skeletons of Down’s syndrome individuals… If it had, you would see clearly that they look nothing like the Flores specimen. The idea is nonsense.”
Professor Peter Brown, of the University of New England in Australia, also spoke out against the editors of PNAS for ever allowing the Down’s syndrome paper to be published. Brown was not trying to stifle an opposing scientific theory, but pointing out that the editors did not require the paper to be put through an “independent peer review,” according to The Guardian.
“The article is a contributed submission from an academy member, Kenneth Hsu, an 89-year-old hydrologist who has absolutely no expertise in the subject and who selected referees that were also without expertise in fossil hominin skeletons… This is an outrageous abuse of the peer review process.”
According to the Guardian, each of the three papers that criticized the claim that the hobbits were actually a different species were co-authored by Kenneth Hsu. Professor Chris Stringer pointed out that Hsu is neither an expert of human evolution nor anatomy and is on record strongly opposing Darwin’s theories and conventional concepts of evolution.
Dr. Falk spoke about the claims Hsu had made.
“First they claimed the hobbit was really a modern person with microcephaly — an abnormally small head… We showed that this could not be true. Then they claimed he had Laron syndrome, a form of dwarfism. Again my team showed this was not true. Now they are taking a shot with Down’s syndrome. Again they are wrong.”
Professor William Jungers, with the State University of New York, made the statement quoted below, agreeing that the hobbits of Flores were indeed a separate species. Jungers called the Down’s syndrome article “shockingly bad science riddled with errors of fact and attribution.”
“They say Homo floresiensis is similar to a modern person with Down’s syndrome, but no one with that condition has a tiny cranium only 400cc in capacity as floresiensis does, nor do they have thick cranial bones as it does.”
Tal dia como hoy de 2004,en la isla de Flores (Indonesia) aparecen los restos del Homo Floresiensis (“El hobbit”) pic.twitter.com/aHQWwBX0ks
— AceroentrelasSombras (@AceroSombras) October 27, 2014
As if finding out that hobbits and modern humans lived on earth at the same time (and so recently) wasn’t mind-blowing enough, the story of hobbit-like people is deeply rooted in the folklore of the isle of Flores, according to the Genetic Literacy Project. Folk tales from the island speak of the Ebu Gogo, a tiny species that resembled humans that once lived on the same island where the scientists found their hobbit bones.
This cool little lady belonged to the species Homo floresiensis. They became extinct 18 000 years ago. pic.twitter.com/QeobKw5sVh
— TechCredo (@techcredo) June 9, 2013
A native to the island told Dr. Alice Roberts the story, quoted from the video, both below. The native told the story that had been passed down for generations about why their tribe had to kill off the Ebu Gogo hobbits.
“They really did exist and they were destroyed by our ancestors about seven generations ago… Firstly, because they stole food. And secondly, because they kidnapped our children.”
Director Rick Potts of the Smithsonian’s Human Origins Program used to doubt that the Hobbits were a different species from modern man, but he has since changed his mind after seeing the evidence.
“Flores was this wing in the building of human evolution that we didn’t know about. There is no reason that 800,000 years of experimentation could not evolve a small but advanced brain.”
What do you think of these “tricksy hobbitses” from the isle of Flores?
[Photo via Peter C. Kjærgaard on Twitter]