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Hobbits In Indonesia Died Out Long Ago - Were Modern Humans To Blame?

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Hobbit people living in Indonesia died out long ago, according to new research, pushing back the age when these tiny humans lived. The diminutive creatures may have even been wiped out by the first modern humans, according to a recent study.

Homo floresiensis was discovered in 2003 within a cave on the Indonesian island of Flores, but researchers originally dated the end of the species to around 12,000 years ago. A new study shows the small-statured human species, nicknamed "The Hobbit" by investigators, died out around 50,000 years before our own time.

These halflings stood approximately 42 inches tall, and featured a brain much like that seen in modern chimpanzees. This mental capacity allowed H. floresiensis to use stone tools as they went about their day-to-day business, including hunting pygmy elephants.

Human beings spread throughout local islands around 50,000 years ago, an event that was followed by the disappearance of the ancient hobbit people. Numerous animal species, including large Komodo dragons, also died off on Flores at around the time Home sapiens first walked on the island. Future research will examine if our direct ancestors were directly responsible for killing off the halfling-like creatures on Flores.

"To me, the question is, 'Would the Hobbits have become extinct if humans had never made landfall on Flores?' and the answer is 'no.' We were likely the decisive factor in their demise, but we still need to find hard evidence to back up this hunch," said Bert Roberts of the University of Wollongong in Australia.

Sediment housing the skeletal remains, together with stone tools, was examined by archaeologists looking to better understand the age of the finds. The tools were dated between 50,000 and 190,000 years before our time, while the hobbit bones were measured to be 60,000 to 100,000 years old.

Researchers believe the earlier measurement recording an age of 11,000 to 13,000 years old was a simple mistake. Investigators on that earlier study may have confused two layers of remains, leading to the erroneous conclusion. The new data was based on additional digs in the area, providing more accurate dating of finds.

Analysis of the hobbit people remains was detailed in the journal Nature.

Photo: Tim Evanson | Flickr

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