Likely ancestor of mystery 'hobbit' found

Likely ancestor of mystery 'hobbit' found
Reconstruction of Homo floresiensis by Atelier Elisabeth Daynes. Credit: Kinez Riza

Half-sized humans who lived 700,000 years ago were almost certainly the ancestors of enigmatic "hobbits" whose fossils were found on the same Indonesian isle in 2013, scientists stunned by their own discovery reported Wednesday.

Two studies, published in Nature, fill a huge gap in our understanding of these diminutive people, whose tortuous evolutionary saga hit a dead-end some 50,000 years ago.

A modest haul of teeth and bones from an adult and two children has bolstered the theory that the hobbits, known to scientists as Homo floresiensis, arrived on Flores island as a different, larger of hominin, or early man, probably about a million years ago.

And then, something very strange happened.

These upright, tool-wielding humans shrank, generation after generation, until they were barely half their original weight and height.

The process, called "island dwarfism," was well known in animals, with some species shrinking as much as six fold in adapting to an environment with fewer resources.

Indeed, Flores was also home to a miniature race of elephant-like creatures—possibly hunted to extinction by the mini-men—called Stegodons.

This is the first hard evidence of humans becoming smaller after being marooned on a spit of land transformed into an island by rising seas.

The origins of the species known as 'the hobbit' - a human relative only a little over a metre tall - have been debated ever since its discovery in 2004. Now new fossils may reveal the ancestors of this strange species and help us to understand its history. Credit: Nature video

"The hobbit was real," said Adam Brumm, an archaeologist at the Research Centre of Human Evolution at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, and lead author of one of the studies.

"It was an ancient human species that is separate to ours and that no longer exists on the planet today."

The new fossils were unearthed in central Flores in 2014, about 100 kilometres (70 miles) from the 2003 discovery of the hobbit remains.

Likely ancestor of mystery 'hobbit' found
Hominin fossil. Credit: Kinez Riza

The find provided partial answers to key questions: from which species did H. floresiensis evolve, and how long did it take to shrink?

Two plausible evolutionary scenarios remain regarding their origins, said Brumm.

Excavations at Mata Menge. Credit: Kinez Riza

"The first is that the 'hobbits' represent a kind of dwarfed Homo erectus from Java," he told AFP.

Homo erectus, up to 1.8 metres (six feet) tall and weighing up to 70 kilogrammes (154 pounds), is thought to have been the first human species to venture out of Africa.

A 'huge surprise'

A specimen dated to about 1.2 million years ago—when much of the Indonesian archipelago was a single land mass—was found on the island of Java in the late 19th century.

Similarities in the teeth point to this as the most likely parent of the Flores humans, Brumm said.

Gert Van Der Bergh and Iwan Kurniawan discussing at Mata Menge Trench. Credit: Kinez Riza

"The alternative theory is that these creatures descend from an earlier radiation of more archaic, small-boned hominins from Africa."

One theory that can now be set aside, the researchers said, is that Flores' hobbits were actually modern humans diminished by disease or genetic disorders.

"This find quashes once and for all any doubters that believe Homo floresiensis was merely a sick Homo sapiens," said Gert van der Bergh, leader of the excavation and a professor at the University of Wollongong's Centre for Archaeological Science.

Most surprising was that the recently exhumed specimens were no larger than those still living on the island more than 600,000 years later.

"I was stunned when I first saw these new fossils," said co-author Yousuke Kaifu, a scientist at the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo.

Hominid Mandibulas Ramus FR. Credit: Kinez Riza

Anything that old, he said, had been expected to resemble the bigger Homo erectus, or some other more primitive species.

"What we found was a huge surprise," added Brumm.

"This suggests that H. floresiensis is an extremely ancient species that evolved its small size on Flores at a very early period, possibly soon after it arrived on the island about a million years ago."

New fossils push 'hobbit' story back to 700,000 years ago
This 2015 picture provided by Kinez Riza shows a reconstruction model of Homo floresiensis by Atelier Elisabeth Daynes at Sangiran Museum and the Early Man Site. Credit: Kinez Riza

Explore further

Indonesian 'Hobbits' may have died out sooner than thought

More information: Homo floresiensis-like fossils from the early Middle Pleistocene of Flores,

Age and context of the oldest known hominin fossils from Flores,

Journal information: Nature

© 2016 AFP

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Jun 08, 2016
Good news!

The BBC article discuss some of the context, such that the ~ 1 Myrs date comes from earlier tool finds at the Mata Menge site. (And that is presumably why they dug there for so long.) "Prof Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London believes that the evidence for the rapid shrinking theory is circumstantial: "We do not know how large the tool-makers at one million years actually were, since we do not have their fossils yet; and, secondly, we cannot be sure that the evidence at one million years actually represents the first arrival of humans on Flores.""

[ ]

The article is wrong in suggestion that Flores could have been a part of the mainland, there is a deep trench that no ice age could dry out. The BBC article discusses that the arrival is a problem:

"Homo erectus was too primitive to build boats and it was too far for the species to swim from Java to Flores."

Jun 08, 2016
How would anyone prove Home Erectus don't know how to build boat??? No woodwork survive decay. All we found were stone blade as a tip of a larger tool, mass produced from a quarry and distributed.

Boats aren't made of stones... ...

"Homo erectus was too primitive to build boats and it was too far for the species to swim from Java to Flores."

Jun 08, 2016
Just let us know if anyone finds a ring with one of them D~

Jun 08, 2016
Monkeys are too primitive to build boats, yet few primatologists doubt that all New World monkeys are descended from Old World ancestors who somewhere rode great distances between Africa and South America over open seas on what many postulate might have consisted of nothing more than natural rafts made up of clumps of dislodged trees and other plant material washed out to sea and carried by currents.

Jun 09, 2016
hey yeah. just because they couldn't build boats doesn't mean that they couldn't have got the idea to pack some food and hitch a ride on a natural raft. it's all wild speculation

Jun 09, 2016
Those are good questions. As a note, woodwork can survive thousands of years preservation, when it gets buried in oxygen poor sediments (bogs, sea bottom - but usually where the wood-eating worms are absent such as in fresh/brackish or cold wwaters. (I.e. inland waters, the Baltic Sea or the Arctic/Antarctic oceans.) [ https://en.wikipe...aterials ]

However, that is not relevant to these old conditions. Instead, paleonthologists look at where the fossils are found. H. erectus is always found on the mainland, or on islands that at one time or other have been connected with it. Biogeography of plants and animals tells them these things (island connection, and which species can easily travel over fresh or salt water. I.e. plant seeds say may float but have problem with salt.

I guess they could also try to look for tree work tools, but there is no need.


Jun 09, 2016

The float theory seems to be the main guess for how H. erectus came to Flores. Since it is monsoon and tsunami territory, there are many opportunities for lucky floats on natural dislodged tree rafts.

Same goes for apes between Africa and South America, a sequential series of natural disaster floats at the time the Atlantic was much narrower and there were more volcanic islands in between.

There are many examples of accidental floats to islands that never have had any connection to a mainland. "Rafting has played an important role in the colonization by mammals of isolated land masses, such as Madagascar, which has been isolated for ~120 million years (Ma), and South America, which was isolated for much of the Cenozoic. Both land masses, for example, appear to have received their primates by this mechanism. ..." [ https://en.wikipe...ispersal ]

Jun 09, 2016
Half-sized humans who lived 700,000 years ago were almost certainly the ancestors of enigmatic "hobbits"

As with 99.999% of evolutionary tales, the words "almost certainly" gives the game away.

There just is no certainty because there are no actual observations of this supposed event[s].
There is no way to verify it, no way to repeat it and also no way to falsify it. It might or might not be true but in any case it sounds like a clear and very intelligent thing to say. No matter that it's pure fabrication. As are most evolutionary tales.

People, if human beings were around 700 000 years ago the earth would be incredibly overpopulated already, even if one were to use a minuscule growth rate for calculation.

Jun 09, 2016
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Jun 09, 2016
People, if human beings were around 700 000 years ago the earth would be incredibly overpopulated already, even if one were to use a minuscule growth rate for calculation
But then smart Leaders invented religion so that wars could be conducted constructively with the intent of managing the flocks.

Stasinos, poet (lived 776 – 580 BC)
"There was a time when the countless tribes of men, though wide-dispersed, oppressed the surface of the deep-bosomed Earth, and Zeus saw it and had pity and in his wise heart resolved to relieve the all-nurturing Earth of men by causing the great struggle of the Ilian war, that the load of death might empty the world. And so the heroes were slain in Troy, and the plan of Zeus came to pass."

Jun 09, 2016
Religion made it easy to divide the people up and set them against one another in controllable ways and with predetermined outcomes.

"And to Gabriel said the Lord: 'Proceed against the bastards and the reprobates, and against the children of fornication: and destroy [the children of fornication and] the children of the Watchers from amongst men [and cause them to go forth]: send them one against the other that they may destroy each other in 10 battle: for length of days shall they not have." Book of Enoch

All that was necessary was to arrange for Leaders on both sides of a conflict to be on the same side. This was also easy as the people have always been the true enemies of rulers everywhere.

And when one can manage conflict and predetermine the results, unimaginable power can be accrued and results achieved.

A tribe of Leaders emerged beholden to no tribe, kingdom, people or nation, and dedicated to protecting the world from the people who lived upon it.

Jun 09, 2016
"16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John3

-Translation: 'For god so loved the WORLD that he would promise the people on it absolutely any nonsense whatsoever (up to and including eternal life in paradise for them and hell for their enemies) in order to save IT from THEM.'

And so far it's worked out pretty well.

Jun 09, 2016
And so far it's worked out pretty well.

Yeah, well, at 7 billion and counting, I reckon it's time to step it up a little bit, eh? The world is collapsing under the weight of the whole human race.

Jun 09, 2016
"Religious cranks demand absolute and complete certainty".

Beside the facts are fairly solid when uncertainty in tests creep below 0.1 % (3 sigma), beside the fact that everyday physics (the laws underlying it), chemistry (water will always be a 1O, 2H molecule) and biology (the standard phylogeny including hominins) are assured to in practice 100 % for all eternity, phylogenetic trees have the *least* remaining uncertainty. [See "29+ evidences for macroevolution" @ TalkOrigins]

The fact that all life obeys evolution has been assured by a test by Theobald in Nature 2010. We have to write a decimal point and then 2020 [!] zeros - which with 100 letters a line would fill a letter size paper - before we get to the first significant digit for the uncertainty.

It is the best assured fact we have! It is larger than any puny religious 'god' ideas, Religious blathering have exactly zero evidence. They are not even wrong, they are not even uncertain, they are 100 % certainly false.

Jun 09, 2016
It isn't only me noting how religion is assured to be false. The reason I take special umbrage to the insertion of stupid religious magic trolling today is the reveal (to me) yesterday of the creep of creepy religion into my favorite topic of astrobiology. The insidious religious Templeton Foundation made NASA bequest over 1 MUSD, 5 % of the area budget, to a theological 'dialogue'.

Prompt action made the Freedom From Religion Foundation take action. One of their constitutional lawyers wrote a letter to the director of NASA's Astrobiology Institute pointing out the blatant constitutional violation.


Jun 09, 2016

"The letter is unusually strong, I think, emphasizing the inability of theology to know anything or resolve any questions, and states clearly the Constitutional law ruling that the government cannot become engaged in matters of theology: "the government cannot fund religion's pursuit of theological doctrines." It's an interesting letter, calling for NASA to take the money back and use it for less wasteful projects."

[ https://whyevolut...heology/ ; according to a comment it should apparently also be investigated as an Anti Deficiency Act violation. "ADA violations involve esoteric spending rules, but they are a big deal and are taken seriously. And they tend to get agency director attention due to required reporting to the president. The person who signed off on this contract might be personally liable for $1.1 million."]


Jun 09, 2016

So there you have it from another scientist, *religion can't know anything or resolve any questions*.

From the letter itself:

"... theology is a bit like discussing over the height of leprechauns or the color of unicorn hair."

"... as Thomas Paine famously penned in "The Age of Reason":

*"The study of theology, as it stands in Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authorities; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and it admits of no conclusion. Not anything can be studied as a science, without our being in the possession of the principles upon which it is founded; and as this is the case of Christian theology, it is therefore the study of nothing."*

[tbctd; *my bold*]

Jun 09, 2016

"Science has the time-tested ways of falsifying its own hypotheses, *and can also falsify religious hypotheses (e.g., the Book of Genesis version of creation)*. *** But theology has no way to adjudicate or falsify its own hypotheses, nor any of the hypotheses of science. ***"

"Put another way, theology is about preserving and perpetuating ignorance; science about eradicating it."

TL;DR: My science has a hammer; your magic beings were nailed to a piece of wood. Any questions!?

Jun 10, 2016

Yeah, well, at 7 billion and counting, I reckon it's time to step it up a little bit, eh? The world is collapsing under the weight of the whole human race
What, you don't think that the ONE BILLION ABORTIONS which have occurred since ww2, including their potential offspring to the 2nd and 3rd generation, isn't enough?

Anything beyond that would be of truly biblical proportion.

"18 A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths. 19 The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury." Rev9

-And as we know, 1/3 of pregnancies in the US are aborted; 1/2 in Russia. Prenatal infanticide sounds pretty biblical to me.

Check johnstonsarchive, the most important site on the internet.

Jun 10, 2016
Torbjorn the problem with you is you have no imagination. You can't imagine alternatives to official history even though it makes no sense; and so it must be the only explanation.

And we just happened to survive all that happenstance by shear luck, and so here we are tada, better and stronger and smarter today than we ever were, and poised to leave the planet in force.

And we just happen to have all the tools we need to do so. Including 10,000 tons of the most improbable but most useful and vital materials we could ever hope to have for this endeavor. Yup, fissionables.

Sorry but I'm not buyin it.

Jun 10, 2016
What, you don't think that the ONE BILLION ABORTIONS which have occurred since ww2, including their potential offspring to the 2nd and 3rd generation, isn't enough?

WAY shy of what I'd like to see.

Jun 10, 2016
Thread bookmarked.
Thanks tbl.
(I remember your early posts here, so heavy in jargon I didn't understand that I figured you for a JVK clone. Thanks for dumbing down somewhat for us :)

Jun 11, 2016
WAY shy of what I'd like to see
So pray for rain.

This yours?

Jun 11, 2016
Half-sized humans who lived 700,000 years ago were almost certainly the ancestors of enigmatic "hobbits"

As with 99.999% of evolutionary tales, the words "almost certainly" gives the game away.

There just is no certainty because...

99.999% probability means it is almost certain by any stretch of the imagination of all reasonable people.
By any reasonable stretch of the imagination, 99.999% is an excellent degree of certainty and you only would reject that 99.999% here because it contradicts your religion, which is not a logically valid reason.

Jun 11, 2016
It is all going according to the Plan that was put in motion a billion + Earth years in the past. It was always known even before the Earth formed out of the dust in this quadrant of the Universe that those who were created would eventually shun and reject that which created them. This is normal and expected, and it couldn't be any other way.

Man came from dust, and to dust man returns. Only a select few will rise above their mortal remains to be with the Creator. Only they will be allowed through the portal, that which religions refer to as "the Gates of Heaven". The rest will understand their own destruction.

Religions are entirely man-made, and even those who have read the Bible, who pretend to understand what it says, understand nothing of it. What they read of it is about men, and what men have wrought through their deliberate misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the true meaning of the Message.

This was all expected and cannot be undone.

Jun 11, 2016
WAY shy of what I'd like to see
So pray for rain.

This yours?

I'm praying for a virus. Or a super bug. Or something that renders stupid people infertile.

Back to the Pleistocene!

Blog spot not mine.

Jun 11, 2016
@ you "religious" folks
Evolution is a real process that established life forms will eventually have to undergo if they are to survive, flourish, and procreate each generation in a normal fashion. For those who claim belief in the Creator - do you honestly think that the Creator would fail to give all living creatures the means of survival? Do you think that procreation is all there is to it?
Evolution is not Revolution. Evolution happens so gradually, almost like a soft whisper that is unintelligible, but the meaning of it is evident with each succeeding generation in mostly subtle ways.
I hope that those of you who reject Evolution as a natural and normal process will learn to keep your doubting thoughts to yourselves, or learn to accept the truth rather than making yourselves look foolish.

Jun 12, 2016

Religions are entirely man-made, ...

This is the only correct assertion in your last post.

Jun 12, 2016
Neither my reason nor my values come from my atheism.
My atheism comes from my reason and not the other way around and my values have nothing to do with it.

Religious dogma discourages original imaginative thought. Religion implicitly tells you not to think.

You can, without the slightest effort of thought, easily explain anything away with a god or magic or the supernatural.
But, for a real explanation, you must do a lot better than that.
Real explanations requires real thinking.

When one does not know, it is stupid to explain it away with a god. Much more intelligent and honest to just humbly admit ignorance. Or, better still, seek a rational scientific explanation.

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