Mystery hobbits that lived on an Indonesian island some 15,000 years ago are not related to modern humans, a new study has found.
Scientists say these little people may have been a totally different species. This adds more color and spice to the years-long debate of anthropologists.
The Discovery Of "Hobbits"
Experts were able to unearth the so-called hobbits on the island of Flores in Indonesia in 2003. The species was later dubbed Homo floresiensis (H. floresiensis).
Since then, experts have been debating whether the species belong to an unidentified form of early humans or are types of modern humans distorted by a certain disease.
An adult hobbit weighs about 25 kilos and stands approximately three feet tall.
Interestingly, Flores Island used to house Stegodon, an extinct race of small elephants.
An Array Of Theories
Scientists have come up with different theories of what the hobbits really are. Sometimes, the scientific discussions become so heated that it reaches to a point of harshness.
Some say that the hobbits came from a larger group of Homo erectus and became smaller through time. Such theory is backed up by a process called "insular dwarfing," which diminished the size of animals due to decreased food supply after moving across land bridges during the low sea level period. These animals were said to have isolated themselves on the island as oceans began to rise again.
Some people think that the hobbits were indeed humans whose small size was caused by a genetic condition. One example of genetic disorder associated with the hobbits is dwarf cretinism, which is caused by insufficient iodine. Another one is microcephaly, which is said to shrink not only the brain, but its bony envelope as well.
Verdict According To Latest Study: Not Humans
A new study by two French scientists says that the hobbits are not really Homo sapiens or modern humans.
The scientists analyzed the skull bones of the fossils and re-studied each layer. They particularly looked at the specimen called Liang Bua 1, which is said to have the most intact skull.
So, Is There A Conclusion Yet?
"So far, we have been basing our conclusions on images where you don't really see very much," says lead author Antoine Balzeau from France's Natural History Museum. He adds that the bone layers had so much information, but the overall picture is ambiguous. Ultimately, he says that the H. floresiensis did not have a similar characteristic from Homo sapiens.
The researchers did not find anything that supports the genetic disease theory, despite cues of minor illnesses. While this part of the puzzle may have been put into place, scientists still could not ignore the possibility that the species may be a small version of the Homo erectus or were a completely different species.
"For the moment, we can't say one way or the other," says Balzeau.
Photo: Karen Neoh | Flickr